As part of its latest pharmacy investigation, the consumer charity sent undercover reporters into 42 pharmacies, supermarkets and discount stores, to attempt to buy four 16-tablet packets of regular paracetamol. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) guidelines limit sales to two packets per transaction, it noted.
"Worryingly, Poundland has a multibuy promotion, selling three 16-tablet packets of paracetamol for £1," Which? highlighted when it published its results on Saturday (February 17).
Explaining its multibuy strategy, Poundland told C+D: "We’re Poundland. Which means we sell most things for £1. That’s why we sell three packets together."
"If we sold one packet we’d have to call ourselves 33p-land," it added.
Numark director of marketing and development Mandeep Mudhar told C+D yesterday (February 20) that Poundland’s comments were "unbelievable".
"Presumably someone at the company thought they were being humorous and didn't realise that actually this is quite a serious medicine that has restrictions in terms of sales volumes," he said.
"It's just completely inappropriate for them to almost laugh about this, like it's a bit of a joke."
Lack of regulatory oversight
Mr Mudhar also took issue with Poundland’s retailing approach to potentially dangerous drugs, arguing the firm should not be allowed to sell medicines "without regulatory oversight".
In its investigation, Which? noted that Asda, Morrisons and Tesco "successfully implemented a two-packet maximum" when selling paracetamol.
"Supermarkets have implemented a system that prevents [buying large quantities of paracetamol] from happening, so why is Poundland or any other store of that kind allowed to?" Mr Mudhar asked.
"The whole idea of having [a] regulatory aspect within pharmacies is that they can intervene and use their discretion in terms of the professional element if someone is trying to buy a large amount."
"[Pharmacists are] trying to give good advice on the safe and appropriate use of medication, and then you have this completely unrestricted way of supplying and selling medicines through other outlets," he stressed.
"It just makes a complete farce of everything we're trying to do from a professional perspective, and it doesn't sit right with any of us in this profession."
Poundland: "Comment not meant as humour"
Responding to the criticisms, Poundland told C+D that it has "blocks" on its till systems that prevent customers from buying more than three packs of paracetamol.
"We’re Poundland; that means we sell the majority of items for £1. The comment wasn’t any attempt at humour," it added.
The retailer asked if its critics were suggesting it abandon its "pricing position – which is the bedrock of the business" – for "a key item" such as paracetamol, or increase its price "so we sell two packets for £1, which would be significantly more expensive than elsewhere".
"If they or anyone else who reads C+D has other suggestions as to how we can meet customers’ expectations that we sell paracetamol for £1, without overcharging, they should tell us," Poundland added.
In 2012, the MHRA criticised Poundland's multibuy promotions on analgesics and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society wrote to the retailer to ask them to stop its "disgraceful sales promotions".
You can read C+D's 2015 investigation into retailers breaching MHRA pain relief guidelines here.