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GPhC cracks down on 6 pharmacies over codeine linctus buying habits

The GPhC discovered the malpractice through a “series of unannounced inspections”

The GPhC has placed conditions on the registration of six pharmacies after it discovered they were buying “unusually high” volumes of codeine linctus.

Following “a series of unannounced inspections”, the regulator took enforcement actions against the pharmacies – which it did not name – forbidding the sale and supply of any codeine linctus preparations, except for those requested through an NHS prescription, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said in a statement published today (September 11).

Pharmacists can sell codeine linctus without prescription, as it is classified as a P medicine under the Medicines Act 1968 and the Human Medicines Regulations 2012, the GPhC said.

However, the medicine is considered high risk because it is known to have been misused, abused or overused, the GPhC added.

No safeguards

While “most pharmacies” have safeguards in place to prevent misuse of codeine linctus, the GPhC has had to take “robust action” against the pharmacies for not applying these measures, Claire Bryce-Smith, GPhC director of insight, intelligence and inspection said.

“We will continue to use the information we receive as intelligence to identify pharmacies supplying opioids inappropriately and will take necessary enforcement action against them in order to protect the general public and ensure they receive safe and effective care,” she added.

On March 17, the GPhC announced it would be stopping all routine inspections with immediate effect. However, intelligence-led inspections continued during the pandemic, it said in a Q&A on its website.

More recently, the regulator resumed re-inspections of those pharmacies that have had a “standards not all met” inspection outcome.

Between April 2019 and March 2020, the regulator served enforcement notices to 20 pharmacies, 17 of which are online pharmacies, following concerns including unsafe working practices and their supply of high-risk medicines.

What do you make of the GPhC's action?

Cod Fillet, Community pharmacist


This is simply not addressing the problem. Reclassify opioid containing medicines. Causes much more harm than benefit to the general population . It's very difficult for pharmacies to control this due to several factor, as financial interest in making sales, abuse received by customers, and generally too busy to monitor repeated requests .

This low potency opioids are often a stepping stone for serious drugs addictions.

Matthew Edwards, Community pharmacist

I don't see why it needs any reclassification.   Most pharmacy staff know repeat offenders for codeine containing products.  What beggars belief is the sale of codeine linctus.  There are alternatives which are just as effective so why would someone sell codeine linctus?   Then you have the quantity to trigger concerns? Surely this was just stupidity or lack of professional sensibilities. 

Getting Shorter, Community pharmacist

I'm with Cod on this. I'd happily see all dihydro/codeine products removed from P sale. Too much abuse - intentional for not - for little/no clinical benefit. Cod has missed the patients' side of control problems such as regularly rotating pharmacies.

I can rant for a while on this one (and often do!) but removing from sale is what it really comes down to.

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