Pharmacists found selling benzodiazepines to ‘criminal market’, discovers MHRA

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

UK regulators and police are carrying out a large-scale investigation into the diversion of prescription-only drugs into the criminal market following the arrest of two pharmacists based in Yorkshire.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) received a tip-off from enforcement authorities in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, which led to two pharmacists based in Yorkshire being arrested following the purchase of more than 200,000 packs of benzodiazepines and other drugs. They were arrested in relation to a number of offences, including possession with intent to supply a controlled drug. 

The MHRA, which regulates medicines and medical devices in the UK, says the pharmacists were selling benzodiazepines and other hypnotic/anxiolytic drugs from the regulated supply chain to the black market.

The regulator says drugs being diverted from the regulated supply chain is a rare occurence but their investigation has shown an extensive network of criminality involving businesses, such as wholesale dealers and a small number of registered pharmacies in the UK.

However, there is no indication that the illegal sales of the drugs have led to medicines shortages or issues with the legitimate supply of medicines to the public, the MHRA says, adding that anyone buying medicines online should look for the distance selling logo and check the Medicines Seller Register to ensure the safety and legitimacy of their medicines.

Alastair Jeffrey, head of enforcement at the MHRA, says: “Selling medicines other than through the legitimate supply chain is illegal.

“As a matter of priority we are working with our regulatory and law enforcement colleagues to identify and prosecute those involved in this activity and to implement preventative measures to make sure this illegal industry is shut down.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2017, Vol 298, No 7897;298(7897):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20202109

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