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Morrisons defends pharmacy rated 'poor' for refusing ibuprofen sale

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Morrisons pharmacies received four "good" and two "poor" ratings from Which?
Morrisons pharmacies received four "good" and two "poor" ratings from Which?

Morrisons has defended the conduct of a pharmacy rated “poor” by Which? for refusing to sell two ibuprofen products together.

As part of its latest pharmacy investigation, Which? sent undercover reporters into six of the supermarket’s pharmacies to buy both ibuprofen and Sudafed Sinus Pressure and Pain (phenylephrine/ibuprofen).

The consumer charity rated the advice offered by four of the Morrisons pharmacies as "good" and two as "poor", it said when it published its findings on Saturday (February 17).

In one of the visits to a "poor" pharmacy, "our researcher was asked a comprehensive list of questions, but was refused sale of the medicines together, for the reason that they shouldn’t be taken together", Which? said.

"While this isn’t a safety issue, our expert pharmacist judged this to be an unreasonable restriction," Which? explained.

When questioned by C+D, Which? said it considered the visit to be "unreasonable" because "the customer was asked a thorough list of questions and gave answers that shouldn't have raised any alarm – but was still denied the purchase of both medicines".

"We think this falls within the realm of 'poor advice'."

Morrisons supports pharmacy teams' right to refuse

Morrisons told C+D yesterday (February 19) it is "disappointed with the two failed tests".

"We note that one of the fails was for an ‘unreasonable restriction’ in not supplying sinus medication and ibuprofen," the supermarket said.

"We support our pharmacists in not supplying pharmacy (P) medicines to a customer if there is any local concern that the customer might take the medication inappropriately," the supermarket added.

"We have restated this guidance to our pharmacy teams."

In its same investigation, Which? also rated one Asda pharmacy as "poor" for refusing a sale. C+D has contacted the supermarket for comment.

21 Comments
Question: 
In what circumstances would you refuse the sale of ibuprofen and Sudafed Sinus Pressure and Pain?

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

This is nothing but a symptom of the current state of affairs in the UK pharmacy industry. It's like forcing a surgeon to operate on 4 patients at a time and then making a massive deal of the fact that one of them developed an infection.

Amal England, Public Relations

I cannot believe what's going on here. Who is reviewing Which to make sure what they are doing is done properly and that the money is well spent. When will Which going into GP surgeries and order a prescription for co-codamol 30/500 x 224 tablets? A road has a speed limit of 30mph, it does not mean everyone has to do 30 on that road and nor do I need to question why one person is doing 25 while another does 20! What pathetic nonsense from Which who ate probably sending out low paid and naive students.

Aneesa Halima Ishaque, Locum pharmacist

I would refuse the sale of the two items together and just sell one. Sometimes it isn't always about a legal maximum or profit, its just about being responsible. And a pharmacist is allowed to refuse a P med on any grounds if they are the one signed in - without the full transcript of the conversaton we won't know exactly why the pharmacist refused the sale. If I work in an area where I know the patient well, I am more likely to supply up to the legal limit - e.g. three packets of 32 paracetamol but will still monitor sales.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I have taken one Sudafed Sinus Pressure and Pain + one Ibuprofen 200mg TDS before. What’s wrong with that and why won’t you sell them to me?

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

Haha, the lack of reply says all. 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

Have to agree with you Jonny!!!! LOL look at us we are sooooooooo responsible.... thats why the government want you in dispensing sweat shops!!!

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Frankly, it does not matter a jot as every pharmacist has to justify their own decision, and if in doubt just decline the sale end of story, no sweat. Who knows if someone can guaruntee if someone in the household to whom these otc meds are sold will not take too much nurofen plus with another ibuprofen combination. I regularly knock off paracetamol off repeat precriptions where co-codamol maybe on repeat too, that's standard so declining two ibuorofen combinations is only reducing the risk, and if they do overdose then you would be the biggest so and so on two legs if you did not stop the rx or otc sale, Good luck x

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Which should spend a week at Boots and report back their findings. they could even forward it to the GPhC. If they're not so busy 'protecting the public' they could look into some of these findings.......

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I've had some ridiculous restrictions in my time. I remember having a pharmacist freak out because I was going to sell a 90-year-old a couple of 100g boxes of citric acid powder because she wanted to make elderflower cordial and clean the limescale from her kettle.

Amal England, Public Relations

I assume you were thinking that it is impossible for the 90-yr old to be a drug addict and equally impossible that they were buying the citric acid for a family member who was a drug addict.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

What ever the reason for the pharmacist refusing two products containing ibuprofen when there is a risk regardless of it's severity. Then the pharmacist is quite right to declne the sale. Nurofen plus is regularly abused and I have seen deaths in local papers even for loperamide. Good luck all!!

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

You hark back toa bygone era when pharmacy was a profession and it's exponents could exercise pofessional judgement.

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

So now we have to answer to 'Which'? Give over... 'Which' is a consumer organisation that reviews kettles and the like. They are hardly qualified to make judgements on professional decisions - we have the great GPhC for that.

Jonny Johal, Pharmacy Area manager/ Operations Manager

I think Which? got it right if the two packets do not add up to more than the legal maximum. They are doing a better job than the GPhC. "Should not be taken together" (only if 'together' exceeds the recommended dose) should not be confused with 'should not be sold together'. Trying to educate customers is very different from treating customers like morons who can't understand or decide for themselves.

Increasingly, I am seeing more and more of these 'sales prevention' pharmacists who think they know best and take every opportunity to say "No" to perfectly legitimate sales; always looking for an excuse to refuse (I heard some called this 'exercising professional judgement' LOL); guess that make them feel powerful.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Given you can buy ibuprofen any where, I'm not sure of the value of this piece of research 

Susan M Shepherd, Community pharmacist

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Which rate as poor both those that supplied and those that refused.

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

Regardless I'm sure they could perform just as well as the GPhC ?!

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Wonder who this expert pharmacist was .., be interested to know the last time he actually worked in a community pharmacy . Most problems in pharmacy  are created by pharmacists themselves . Hope they paid him more than £17 per hour for his trouble  

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I wonder if they would back the 'expert pharmacist' if they deemed a MUR not necessary at any given time ?

Mohammed Patel, Community pharmacist

Far easier to do research like this and criticise people, rather than get down to the nuts and bolts of what is really wrong with pharmacy in the UK.

John Hoyte, Community pharmacist

Seems unfair for an "expert pharmacist" to make what is implied to be an objective grading against a subjective decision, especially considering the decision errs on the side of caution. There is no objective metric for deciding whether to supply ibuprofen with an ibuprofen-containing combination product and, with a regulatory body that does not seem interested in defending practitioners, it's not unreasonable that pharmacists and staff will choose to protect themselves from litigious or FtP concerns.

It seems trivial to poke holes in professional judgment like this. It might be more useful to set out objective and clear procedures, instead of telling pharmacists to use their judgment on a case by case basis and then tell them they're doing it wrong.

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