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Think tank: Pharmacists could sell cocaine from pharmacy-like stores

Think tank Transform suggests a pharmacy-style packaging for drugs for non-medical use. Pic credit: Transform
Think tank Transform suggests a pharmacy-style packaging for drugs for non-medical use. Pic credit: Transform

Pharmacists with specialist training could sell cocaine and other stimulants for non-medical use from pharmacy-like “licensed outlets”, a drugs policy reform group has mooted.

These stores would be similar to a traditional pharmacy in that “drugs would be sold from behind the counter”, Steve Rolles – senior policy analyst at think tank Transform told C+D yesterday (October 20).

However, these pharmacy-like outlets would be dedicated specifically to selling recreational drugs and would not sell drugs for medicinal use, he clarified.

This idea was further explored by Mr Rolles, Transform’s CEO James Nicholls and its research and policy officer Harvey Slade in their book How to Regulate Stimulants: A Practical Guide, published yesterday.

The book is for “everyone who accepts the drug on war has failed to debate alternatives to prohibition”, and suggests a roadmap for the regulation of cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines.

The pharmacy model

Mr Rolles told C+D that the researchers had explored whether other models could be applied to the sale of drugs, such as those regulating the licensed sales of alcohol or tobacco.

However, the “most obvious model was a pharmacy sales model”, which the researchers found offered a “very effective way of regulating access to potentially risky drugs”.

Under the proposed model, some products that are already dispensed by pharmacies, such as dexamphetamine pills, could be sold from these pharmacy-like stores, where a trained professional would impart information about “risk and risk reduction”, Mr Rolles said.

However, Mr Rolles said they were not too “prescriptive” in the book about who should work in these pharmacy-like stores.

“It could be either a pharmacist with some additional training, or it could be developed as a specialist niche. But to be honest, these are some of the details that we would like to discuss with the pharmacist professions,” he added.

The packaging of products sold in these stores would also look like items normally dispensed in a pharmacy, with “labelling and health warnings”. But at the same time, the specialist pharmacist or professional would be “required to give information and advice”, Mr Rolles said.

“No plans to legalise drugs”

A Home Office spokesperson told C+D today (October 21): “The government has no plans to legalise drug use as there is a substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that controlled drugs are harmful and can damage people’s mental and physical health, and our wider communities”. 

Office for National Statistics figures published last week (October 14) revealed that two-thirds of 2019 drug poisoning deaths – 2,883 out of 4,393 – were linked to the misuse of drugs, while cocaine-related deaths across England and Wales stood at 708 in 2019, rising for the eighth consecutive year to its highest figure yet.

What do you make of this proposal?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

There is some merit to it, in my opinion, prohibitive measures have never worked on anything historically, it just pushes the problem to an underground market, where it becomes unregulated.

There's also the aspect of how much is charged for the use of these drugs, let is be very clear; alcohol and smoking are both two drugs that cause a very heavy burden on healthcare, and in consideration of this, it seems logical that these should be taxed heavily to fund the NHS in providing treatment for the diseases they can cause.

There's evidence that this works. We just have to look at how a 5p charge for a plastic bag affected their usage, an 80% drop in their usage. We can also see this affecting the soft drinks industry, rushing to provide sugar-free alternatives to avoid the "sugar tax".

The same argument could also be made for prescription charges. A nominal fee of £1 charged to everyone would easily cover more than the same amount of money and would have the same psychological affect.

Watto 59, Community pharmacist

May have some merit...Never going to happen

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

i was sure today is 21/10/2020  but perhaps it is 1/4/2021 and i looked at the wrong page in my diary this morning ?  

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I don't make very much of this proposal at all and I'm very glad I'm leaving the profession Dec 31st, never coming back and so I won't have to be party to it.

You can check out of hotel pharmacy but you never leave

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Wanna bet?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Would you get staff discount?

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