GPhC investigating 23 pharmacists on POM diversion claims

MHRA: Diversion of “top strength” diazepam is down 64% as a result of investigations
MHRA: Diversion of “top strength” diazepam is down 64% as a result of investigations

Twenty-three pharmacists face fitness-to-practise investigations for their role in diverting prescription-only medicines (POMs) onto the criminal market, the regulator has said.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) told C+D yesterday (May 1) it is “working closely” with the government’s medicines watchdog on its investigation into “an extensive network of criminality”, with businesses diverting POMs to be sold illegally online – and that 23 pharmacists will face fitness-to-practise investigations as a result.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced its latest crackdown – which it said involves a “small number of registered pharmacies” – in January. It leads on from its 2016 investigation into the “significant diversion of benzodiazepines and other hypnotics/anxiolytics” onto the black market.

The GPhC is waiting for the outcome of the MHRA investigation to set the dates for the hearings, it said.

So far, six pharmacists have been suspended under “interim orders” while the investigation is ongoing, the regulator explained. The suspended pharmacists are included in the list of 23 who are facing fitness-to-practise investigations, the GPhC confirmed this morning.

The MHRA confirmed to C+D that “approximately 50 pharmacies may have been involved” in the investigation. Eight pharmacists have been arrested, and one pharmacist charged.

“We have identified three websites where there has been approximately £55 million transacted for medicinal products,” it added.

Xanax investigation

The Daily Mail referenced the MHRA’s ongoing investigation in an article published on Monday (April 30), which included video footage of a pharmacist selling an undercover reporter 60 Xanax pills for £150, and 100 tramadol tablets for £250.

The MHRA stressed to C+D that “Xanax is not one of the medicines subject to this diversion investigation”. It said it had not been aware of the pharmacy in question – Al Razi Pharmacy on Edgware Road in London – prior to the Daily Mail’s coverage.

“We cannot comment [further] as it is a police matter and the Daily Mail was advised to inform the police and the GPhC,” the MHRA added.

The regulator said it has referred Al Razi Pharmacy to its fitness-to-practise committee following the Daily Mail story.

Impact of investigations

Last month, the MHRA reported that diversion of “top strength” diazepam onto the black market is down 64% as a result of its ongoing investigations.

MHRA head of enforcement Alastair Jeffrey said yesterday: “We have opened over 30 individual investigations, and we will continue to concentrate our efforts on identifying the criminals involved and ensure they are prosecuted through the courts.”

This article was updated on May 3 following further clarification from the GPhC

14 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the GPhC's investigation?

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Everyone knows if you want to run a dodgy, corrupt pharmacy you have GOT to enter people in an Australian lottery if you want to keep the GPhC off your back. It's literally 'Dodgy Pharmacy 101' - surprised that these characters didn't hear about this requirement.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Perhaps some pharmacists tried to stop it, but no one battered an eyelid. Everyone is blind when it comes to money. There are 100s of people involved in this crime - why should the pharmacists pay for this only? Catch the wholesalers and the corrupt reps too. Why should they get away with it?!!

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Bad attitude!

David Kent, Community pharmacist

Strike them all off the register, deregister the premises from which they practice and all other branches of the companies they work for.  This could not be done without collusion at the highest level in those pharmacies.

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Just a tad unjust on any honest members of staff for these places.....

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

If one chooses to work for a crook, knowingly or otherwise, that’s just life. Criminal enterprises should always come to an end at some point. Lesson is to choose who you work for carefully. 

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Lets all hope you're not working for one of them then......

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Nothing much will happen to them ... even if you get caught operating a fake pharmacy you only get a suspended sentence and some community work, hardly a serious deterrant.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/couple-sentenced-for-operating-fake-online-pharmacy

patrick black, Marketing Manager

If you really wanna get struck off, try eating a mars bar during your shift before paying for it. GPhC are a joke.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Given that the media are happy to splash details of dodgy pharmacists all over the news & internet, thereby making us all look bad for the actions of a few, I do hope there is some very public displays of cleaning house!

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

50 pharmacies possibly involved? Look at how corrupt our industry has become. The public must feel very let down.

patrick black, Marketing Manager

I think the public assume that the GPhC will regulate the UK pharmacy industry properly. Massive mistake.

Corruption? How dare you suggest that this industry is corrupt. No way are people being paid to ignore glaring matters whilst focusing on stupid trivial matters, just to make sure that they keep getting that lovely salary.

Hackney Drug Dealer, Community pharmacist

Ooops, I think my locum may have just left a mug in the sink!

Lucky Ex-Locum, Superintendent Pharmacist

Just get rid of the lot of them for the sake of the rest of us.

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