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.
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.