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Second pharmacist struck off after BBC exposé

An undercover reporter was able to obtain POMs with "shocking" ease, the GPhC ruled

Rafif Sarheed - registration number 2078284 - sold controlled drugs including Viagra and diazepam without a prescription and made a false entry in her pharmacy’s communications book, the GPhC heard

A pharmacist has been struck off the professional register for selling drugs including Viagra and diazepam without a prescription and making a false entry in her pharmacy's communications book.

Rafif Sarheed, registration number 2078284, is the second pharmacist to be removed from the register as a result of a BBC exposé on illegal medicine sales, which aired in December 2012.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) heard testimonials describing Ms Sarheed as an "honest and trustworthy person". It acknowledged that she was working in an environment where the unlawful supply of medicines was "prevalent": earlier this month the pharmacy's superintendent Hussain Jamal Rasool, registration number 2068258, became the first pharmacist to be struck off the register as a result of the BBC Inside out investigation.

But the GPhC stressed that Ms Sarheed's attempts to deceive investigating bodies into believing Mr Rasool had instructed her to provide the medicines without a prescription showed a "lack of full insight".

The GPhC saw undercover footage filmed in September 2012 at Al Farabi Pharmacy in London, where Ms Sarheed was the responsible pharmacist. It showed an undercover BBC reporter requesting amoxicillin, saying that his neck hurt and his throat felt itchy. The reporter suggested a 500mg dose, rather than 250mg, and Ms Sarheed sold the reporter the medicine.

The whole incident took "about 39 seconds" during which time Ms Sarheed did not ask for the reporter's name, whether he had a prescription or what dose he had been prescribed, the GPhC heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing on September 16.

Less than two hours later, the reporter returned and asked a counter assistant for "the most powerful" dose of Viagra. The assistant sold him 100mg tablets supervised by Ms Sarheed and the reporter then asked for Valium. Ms Sarheed told him the pharmacy did not have Valium and instead sold him 10mg diazepam tablets, which she told him would have "the same effect", the GPhC heard.

Ms Sarheed told the GPhC that Mr Rasool had told her over the phone that a patient would come in requesting the three prescription-only medicines and Mr Rasool would bring in the prescriptions later in the day.

An "extrodinary coincidence"

But the GPhC rejected her claims and said it would have been an "extraordinary coincidence" if the undercover reporter had happened to ask for the same three medicines that Mr Rasool had described over the phone. It also noted that in previous evidence to the GPhC Ms Sarheed had only referred specifically to diazepam being mentioned by Mr Rasool during the telephone call.

In April 2013, when Ms Sarheed was under investigation for the sales, she claimed in a statement that she had reassured herself that the reporter's prescription had been processed because she had seen a tick in the pharmacy's communications book against an entry that she made on the day of the sales, the GPhC heard.

But CCTV footage from later that month showed Ms Sarheed writing in the pharmacy's communications book, and she admitted that the footage showed her making a false entry with the intention of "deceiving a future reader into believing that the entry was made" on the day of the sales.

Working under pressure

The GPhC noted that Ms Sarheed had an "otherwise unblemished record" and it had received testimonial evidence of her "good character". It acknowledged that the practices at the Al Farabi pharmacy were "part and parcel" of the registrant's behaviour, and recognised the "pressures" she was under. The fact that Ms Sarheed decided to stop working as a locum at the pharmacy "well before" the BBC programme was broadcast stood in her favour, the GPhC said.

However, it concluded that Ms Sarheed's remorse was "highly coloured by her actions" and accused her of "bringing the profession into disrepute" by making a "premeditated" false entry in the communications book. There was nothing in the undercover footage to suggest that Ms Sarheed had been reluctant to supply the medicines without a prescription and the ease with which the reporter obtained them was "shocking", the GPhC said. The regulator ruled to strike her off the register.

Two pharmacists were suspended in July for their involvement in the BBC scandal.

Read the GPhC's full determination here.

What do you think of the GPhC's sanction?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information

I fail to understand how an "honest and trustworthy person" could work for so long in such an environment without speaking up, or leaving. I'd feel extremely uncomfortable working in a pharmacy where a culture of such blatant illegality was endemic. Reporting concerns, even if done anonymously, is easy to do.

I also, like others, am rather horrified that a) it took a BBC expose to find this sort of activity- how has it not been found out or raised by the GPhC?
b) that it has taken so long to reach verdicts by the GPhC
c) That the sanctions seem so inconsistent, both within this case, and when compared to others.

Graham Edwards, Other pharmacist

It was not necessary to remove Ms. Sarheed's name from the Register. The case of HK v GPhC could have been followed and 2-3 consecqutive suspensionsrecommended.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Depends if you want to be sacked or booked again as a locum. ANd how anonymous do you really think whistleblowing is?

You should try it sometime.

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

This happens when there is a over supply of Pharmacists and then Pharmacy owners take liberties knowing full well that the Pharmacist wont complain as this may jeperdise futre bookings...Indeed it happened to me when i asked for extra staff and the next day the locum coordinator cancelled all my bookings SO I TOLD THEM TO STICK IT AND OPENED MY OWN.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Indeed and ultimately we end up where we are today. A lousy and un-respected joke of a profession.

Neil Jones,

Out of interest, if this was both the superintendent pharmacist and also the owner of the pharmacy (i'm thinking through a limited company owned by the superintendent) then I assume that NHS England would look to terminate the NHS contract. Is this usually the case?

If the superintendent was different to the owner then would the same apply or would they allow the owner to continue if he had no knowledge of the practice?

Answers on a postcard please.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Well pharmacy need to employ an NMP to do these services after a full clinical assesment. It was so unnecessary...

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Somehow, the judgement in all the cases which involved BBC expose, are not uniform. If you see, all have broken the basic law of supplying POMs without prescriptions and for a profit (personal gain) This shows how inconsistent the FtP in its decisions. SO I conclude it is ultimately what the panel thinks should be the punishment and not what you deserve. Sad yet true, and still we get assurances from the GPhC that we wont be subject to FtP when we declare dispensing errors. Funny !!!

Sue Per, Locum pharmacist

Viewed form a different angle, the B.B.C. appears to have taken the role of the regulator, while the latter remain reactive rather than proactive, and will remain on the snooze, until some gives it a kick on the backside. There are breaches of the professional occurring on an almost daily basis, and any complaints made to the regulator, are brushed aside, with the usual quote "It is a contractual and not a regulatory issue". Well done B.B.C. Lets have more of these undercover investigations!!, Time to concentrate on regulatory breaches and N.H.S. frauds committed through repeat dispensing, and services.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"""repeat dispensing"""

Do you mean Managed Repeats/ Automatic Repeats ?? Otherwise, Repeat Dispensing is an essential service and we all get paid £125 every month for it.

Halal Butcher, Academic pharmacist

N.O you think you're clever rectifying what SuePer said?

You will find there are many Independants who commit fraud with Repeat Dispensing too. They basically claim all the items on the RDs even if the Pt doesn't need them. They endorse the Rx to reflect that all have been dispensed when they haven't. You understand clever clogs? Are you still as clever as you're making out? That's fraud and pretty much all Independants to that! *I now await the complaints from the Independants to C&D and get me banned* LOL LOL LOL

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Yes quite common this practice but obviously only whisper it. These same people continuosly complain that they're paupers

Is there evidence of how common this practice is?

Sue Per, Locum pharmacist

Blatantly obvious to the practising pharmacist, managed/automatic repeats.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

""Blatantly obvious to the practising pharmacist, managed/automatic repeats.""

Sorry it is not.

And if you think it is same then you need to look in to the way you are PRACTISING !!

Cod Fillet, Community pharmacist

Finally some hope!

The actions from these pharmacists were deliberate, irresponsible, and surely done on a very regular basis, so strucking them from our profession is essencial for credibility to be restored.

This should make the BBC headlines again in my opinion.

Chatan Gudka, Community pharmacist

Struck off but for how long ???

Time for permanent strike offs for exceptional circumstances. And this is one of those cases

Halal Butcher, Academic pharmacist

After 5 years they can re-apply. I really wish I could say more on here but the too many cry babies on here start putting complaints in against "Halal Butcher"

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

As opposed to calling your critics 'cry babies' maybe try reflecting on your own behaviours. Do you think that there is a reason that so many find your comments to be inappropriate?

Halal Butcher, Academic pharmacist

Well Mr Bains. I say things as they are. I say the truth. The truth seems to upset you people. So what we have is your little group of bumchum friends and then there's me on my tod. My comments are justifiable whether they're inappropriate or not. They are appropriate to me but may be inappropriate to you and all your little bumchum mates.

I will be back with a new ID as no doubt this will get me banned. Actually struckoff just like the Pharmacist for supplying the POMs. I'm very funny ain't I?!!?!?

Sami Khaderia, Non healthcare professional

LOL certified halaal

This isn't the truth. This is thoughtless trolling, on the basis of your own opinion, not based on evidence.

If you truly were speaking the truth, and you truly were not ashamed, and your "truths" were accurate, well researched, and logically presented, you would not need to hide under a series of pseudonyms.

There are ways and means of presenting an argument and taking part in a debate. I'd recommend looking up some basic logical fallacies, particularly ad hominem attacks, and researching on the best way to present an argument. That is, if you are being serious, and you aren't merely a troll.

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