The Northern Irish (NI) government will introduce tougher checks to prevent the illegal sale of controlled drugs following the conviction of a pharmacist.
Maurice Currie, 46, of Portmore Road, Lisburn, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of illegally supplying 875,000 tablets - such as prescription-only medicines like diazepam, tramadol and co-codamol - while working at a pharmacy in Armagh between 2009 and 2013, the government said. Mr Currie (Pharmaceutical Society Northern Ireland registration number 2674) was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment at Newry Crown Court last week (April 27), it said.
In response to the case, Northern Ireland's Department of Health (NHSSPSNI) said it would work with national commissioner the Health and Social Care Board to put in place "additional checks... to identify any such type of illegal activity in future”.
The checking system - which would be “unique” in the UK - would be likley to involve extra audits around the purchase and supply of commonly abused drugs, it told C+D on Thursday (May 30).
The DHSSPSNI was already at an "advanced stage of planning", although it did not have a date for implementing the checks, it added.
'The most serious diversion of medicines'
Mr Currie’s actions came to light following an investigation by the DHSSPSNI's Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG). Peter Moore, the officer in charge of the investigation, said it was “the most serious diversion of medicines by a professional that the MRG has investigated”.
Professor Mike Mawhinney, head of the MRG, said it was "important to stress that this diversion was the result of the actions of a rogue pharmacist determined to break the law”.
“The public can be assured that the vast majority of pharmacists in Northern Ireland continue to provide an essential service in an honest and exceptionally professional manner," he added.
The DHSSPSNI said it would forward the full details of the investigation to Pharmaceutical Society Northern Ireland. Mr Currie's registration with the regulator is suspended.