Pharmacists were being forced to defend their profession today (December 17), after a BBC investigation accused nine pharmacies of selling prescription-only medicines (POMs) illegally.
The NPA and Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the investigation, which alleged that nine pharmacists in London sold POMs including diazepam without a prescription, were isolated cases and did not reflect pharmacy as a whole.
And the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said it was already investigating a number of allegations that pharmacies were selling POMs illegally, after the BBC investigation triggered a call from shadow health secretary Andy Burnham for a review of how pharmacy was regulated.
BBC reporters managed to buy 288 diazepam tablets, 21 temazepam tablets, 294 amoxicillin tablets, 24 Viagra tablets and one bottle of Oramorph
More on POMs
Working for the BBC Inside Out programme, undercover reporters were sold diazepam, opiates and other POMs at the pharmacies without a prescription at prices up to £85.
Over a period of several weeks, the team managed to buy 288 diazepam tablets, 21 temazepam tablets, 294 amoxicillin tablets, 24 Viagra tablets and one bottle of Oramorph.
The investigation will be aired on BBC Inside Out tonight in the London region at 7:30pm and will then be available nationally for seven days on the BBC iPlayer.
The NPA, PSNC and the RPS issued a joint statement in response to the investigation, which said: "These are very isolated cases that do not reflect normal community pharmacy practice. It is not a reflection on pharmacy as a whole, or on a particular section of the pharmacy network – it is a reflection on the behaviours of a very few individuals, if the allegations are proven."
The NPA said the group, together with the RPS and PSNC, was told about the broadcast date of the investigation last week and had been working together to handle media interest.
The RPS said most pharmacists would be shocked by the seriousness of the allegations.
Day Lewis regional manager Jay Patel said it was a dark day for pharmacy and called the alleged behaviour of the pharmacists who sold medicines to the BBC absolutely disgraceful.
"It must be clamped down on; this breaks every moral code and legal code that we as pharmacists are bound by," he said. "These bad apples must be removed from the register and support offered to the patients whose lives may have been damaged by their behaviour."
And Gordon Couper, a contractor at Handbridge Pharmacy in Chester, told C+D that the regulator should throw the book at those found to have broken the rules, but he said the pharmacists highlighted by the BBC were not representative.
"As always if there are one or two bad ones in the pot it's going to make it harder for everyone else."
The BBC Inside Out investigation also claimed there was a confusing enforcements system, with the GPhC and MHRA as two separate watchdogs. It accused the GPhC of not being able to present an overall picture of how widespread the problem is.
"As the pharmacy regulator, our role is to protect patients who use pharmacy services and we will investigate any concerns that we identify through our inspection regime, or that are brought to our attention," GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said.
The pharmacists accused by the BBC were unavailable for comment and some were seeking legal advice.
What do you make of the BBC's allegations?