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Contractor convicted for POM supplies without pharmacist present

The supply took place at Harts Pharmacy in Newcastle, Northern Ireland (credit: © 2018 Google, image capture: June 2018)
The supply took place at Harts Pharmacy in Newcastle, Northern Ireland (credit: © 2018 Google, image capture: June 2018)

A contractor and pharmacy technician in Northern Ireland have both been convicted of the unlawful supply of prescription-only medicines (POMs) without a pharmacist present.

Gordon Thomson, pharmacy technician at Harts Pharmacy, Newcastle, in County Down supplied “a significant range” of POMs – including warfarin, pregabalin, antibiotics and methadone – in the absence of a qualified registered pharmacist on March 24, 2017, Downpatrick Crown Court heard last week (October 17).

For his part in the unlawful supply of the medicines, Gerard Maginn, pharmacist and owner of Harts Pharmacy, was sentenced to 100 hours community service and fined £25,000, while Mr Thomson received 80 hours of community service and a fine of £1,000, Northern Ireland’s Department of Health (DH) said.

The supply of POMs was discovered following an inspection by DH officers, the DH said. 

Mr Maginn and Mr Thomson both pleaded guilty to 18 charges of the unlawful supply of POMs, the DH noted.

“Serious consequences of operating without a pharmacist”

Canice Ward, acting head of the DH’s Medicines Regulatory Group, said in a statement: “This was the first prosecution of this nature in Northern Ireland.”

“This conviction sends a clear message that there are serious consequences if an owner attempts to operate a pharmacy without a pharmacist being present,” she added.

Peter Moore, DH senior medicines enforcement officer, said: “It is with good reason that the law requires a qualified pharmacist to be present in the pharmacy dispensary when prescription medicines are being supplied to members of the public.

“When entering a pharmacy, the public should have reasonable expectation that their prescription needs will be met by a qualified professional.”

Mr Maginn will now be referred to the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to face fitness-to-practise proceedings, the regulator confirmed to C+D.

However, as pharmacy technicians are not regulated as a profession in Northern Ireland, PSNI is unable to take further action on Mr Thomson.

PSNI is working with the government towards regulating pharmacy technicians, it said.

Mr Maginn declined to comment for this article.

9 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of the convictions?

John Ellis, Community pharmacist

Seems like the cuts are so bad, contractors would much rather break the law than pay for a locum. Expect to see many more stories of this type in the future.

H Saw, Community pharmacist

Peter Moore, DH senior medicines enforcement officer, said: “It is with good reason that the law requires a qualified pharmacist to be present in the pharmacy dispensary when prescription medicines are being supplied to members of the public.“When entering a pharmacy, the public should have reasonable expectation that their prescription needs will be met by a qualified professional.”

Just a year earlier:

In September 2017, C+D exclusively revealed that detailed proposals for pharmacy technicians to supervise prescription-only medicine supply had been drafted on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) programme board tasked with “rebalancing” medicines legislation. The proposals were laid out behind closed doors, by a working group – co-chaired by the chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge, and his Scottish equivalent Rose Marie Parr.

Interleukin$ Locum, Community pharmacist

This is the kind of double standards that defines the proffesion today. Did any patients come to harm ? Was the pharmacy "remotely" supervised? Was there financial gain for eg not paying a locum? I mean imagine if you were a multiple with your business name starting with "B" or maybe ...mmmh "L" and you have 525 or more stores "remotely supervised" for just one day with zero locum costs? Imagine  how much business sense that makes ! That my friends is what is coming

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Even one hour without a Pharmacist saves roughly £2,600,000 a year based on 500 stores and £20 per hour wage. That's some serious savings. Makes total sense why Remote Supervision would want to be pushed by contractors, particularly the large multiples.

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

I suggest Gordon and Gerard do their 180 hours community service in their pharmacy as in pharmacy we do so much unpaid work ! 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Am I the only one who thinks that Gordon got away with a far lesser punishment than Gerald?

C A, Community pharmacist

They are just ahead of the times... coming soon to a remote pharmacy near you!

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

No what is coming is far worse. This was a breach of the law and very rare. What the DH and CCA wants is remote supervision where legally there is no pharmacist present and business carries on regardless because they have SOPs!

Point to Editor please. Can you do a survey asking if error rates in community pharmacy are better or worse than when SOPs were mandated?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I remember reading there's a major issue with errors and near misses even being recorded in the first place, so we'd have to speculate a lot of the data.

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