Dispensing errors should be decriminalised

Pharmacy organisations have repeated calls for simple dispensing errors not to be a criminal offence.

The Guild of Healthcare Pharmacists says that the wording of Section 64 of the 1968 Medicines Act “is not fit for purpose”, in its response to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s consultation on a project that aims to consolidate and review medicines legislation. Unworkable laws, the GHP says, bring the legal system into disrepute, so this section should be rewritten so as to exclude a simple dispensing error from being a criminal offence.

A joint response from the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, Community Pharmacy Wales, the Company Chemists’ Association, the National Pharmacy Association and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee says that “it is wholly inappropriate to criminalise the action of a pharmacist who makes a simple mistake”, but adds that it is necessary to criminalise those who deliberately supply a substandard or adulterated medicine. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society says that it sees it as a priority that Section 64 of the Act is reviewed to exclude dispensing errors made by pharmacists.

Other issues raised in the responses include: the need to clarify exemptions from the controls on licensing, wholesaling and supply to patients; the prescribing of unlicensed medicines by pharmacist prescribers; the licensing and registration of herbal and homoeopathic medicines; medicines advertising; and the availability of patient information leaflets for split medicines packs.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2009;()::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.82976

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