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RPS: Supermarket OTC substitutions could be putting patients ‘at risk’

RPS: substitutions could cause a serious risk to health
RPS: substitutions could cause a serious risk to health

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has warned the British Retail Consortium that customers may be “at risk” from OTC medicines being substituted for alternatives in online shopping.

Some over-the-counter (OTC)  medicines, such as paracetamol, are being substituted for alternatives in supermarket home deliveries if the item ordered is out of stock, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said yesterday (October 14).

Such practices may be “putting customers at risk”, as substitutions “have, on occasion, contained different or additional ingredients to those originally ordered”, the RPS said. It has written to the British Retail Consortium to alert the organisation to the issue, it added.

“Without clear and explicit messaging to explain this to customers, such substitutions could cause a serious risk to health, especially among those who cannot tolerate or may be allergic to a specific ingredient,” the RPS added.

C+D asked the RPS for details on which supermarket pharmacy chains are involved and how many incidences it has been made aware of. However, the RPS was unable to provide further information , although a spokesperson told C+D yesterday that the organisation had been “made aware of [the] issues by our members”.

RPS president Sandra Gidley said it is “vital that robust safety procedures for the sale of OTC medicines are in place,” as online shopping deliveries has become more commonplace as a result of COVID-19.

“We are calling on all retailers to review their processes and staff training to ensure that only like-for-like substitutions of medicines can take place as part of home deliveries,” she added.

Have you heard of inappropriate medicines substitutions being made as part of supermarket deliveries?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

This is precisely why medicines should not be sold from anywhere other than a pharmacy. What is the point of all the regulations surrounding sales of meds in pharmacies when people can just go to Wilkos or B and M and buy whatever GSLs they want with no questions asked?

TC PA, Community pharmacist

Wouldn't this be in the MHRA's remit? I'm guessing supermarkets would take more notice of them than the RPS, whom they have probably never heard of

Cymraeg Locum, Locum pharmacist

RPS they won't take a blind bit of notice of you. Money and profit is the only thing they are interested in.

In the good old days pre-covid I was in the supermarket checkout queue when the meds being purchased by the person in front got flagged up on the till. The till operater called over the supervisor who looked at the till for a minute and said "I haven't seen that before". She then proceeded to unlock the till and wave the items through as normal.

I tried to see what the meds were and it looked like multiple cold and flu remedies so I guessed the warning was an excess of paracetamol that flagged up on the till.

Sale went through regardless though.

Dave Downham, Manager

Ooooh, a letter! FFS

Tom Jerry, Community pharmacist

OTC is a bit generic whereas GSL is covered by the Law and so can lead to a prosecution,I suppose

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

so if I choose to give say, paracetamol on an ibuprofen script, the legal implications are epic, if tesrosesons want to swap it without telling anyone they get a stinging note from the PharmSoc threatening to not like them any more...

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist


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