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Dispensing error protection talks hit 'difficulties'

Negotiations have stalled on a deal to protect pharmacists from criminal prosecution for one off dispensing errors, C+D can exclusively reveal.

Industry officials have clashed with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over establishing the public interest in error cases, London’s Court of Appeal heard last week.

“Difficulties have arisen in negotiations,” CPS informed the court, when asked for an update during Elizabeth Lee’s appeal against a custodial sentence for a dispensing error.

When pushed by judges for a revised publication date, prosecutor, John Price, said: “Nothing is imminent…I am unable to give the court a date. I’m instructed the parties have encountered difficulties.”

The setback comes despite repeated pledges from the CPS  that guidance was imminent. Talks have taken place between prosecutors, the MHRA and the DH. The protection deal was first pledged almost a year ago.

Lord Justice Aitkens, one of the three appeal court judges in the Elizabeth Lee case, said: “With three parties you can imagine papers swirling around for months or even years.” 

The CPS statement on guidance dealt a blow to Elizabeth Lee’s defence, according to a member of her legal team.
Mark Koziol said they had hoped to nullify both parts of the Medicines Act that provide the platform for criminal prosecution of pharmacists.

But, because of the guidance delay section 64.1, which governs wrong product supply, had to be left “to lie on the table”.

Ms Lee successfully overturned her conviction, made under a section 85.5 labelling offence, at the hearing.
Her conviction was then substituted for the 64.1 offence at the prosecution’s request and resulted in a £300 for Ms Lee.

The CPS said interim guidance for prosecutors had been drafted. A spokesperson added: “The Crown Prosecution Service, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Department of Health have drafted interim guidance for crown prosecutors to safeguard the public whilst ensuring that dispensing errors are dealt with in a proportionate way. This guidance is still under discussion and will be published once agreed.”

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