The General Pharmaceutical Council says it has taken action against 36 pharmacy premises and one pharmacy professional since July last year over “unusually” high sales of the pharmacy medicine codeine linctus.
Unannounced inspections by pharmacy’s regulator found those pharmacies were failing to properly identify and manage “the risks associated with obtaining or selling” the medicine.
The GPhC said “there were often insufficient controls to prevent repeat sales or to identify trends in requests” and “repeat sales were even made knowingly to the same people.”
The pharmacies involved had conditions placed on their registrations not to sell or supply any codeine linctus products to anyone who does not have a prescription.
A superintendent pharmacist and regular responsible pharmacist were also handed warnings after codeine linctus was supplied without sufficient checks and safeguards in place.
The GPhC said questionnaires and “limited clinical information” were used leading up to the supply of the medicine and fitness to practise investigations have started into other superintendent and responsible pharmacists.
Codeine linctus can only be sold without a prescription in a pharmacy as long as the sale is supervised by a pharmacist.
“Opioids are a high-risk medicine with potential for abuse. We know that across Great Britain most pharmacies and professionals have appropriate safeguards in place in order to prevent them being misused and to provide patients with safe patient-centred care,” said Claire Bryce-Smith, director of insight, intelligence and inspection.
She added: “People requesting codeine linctus can be well-rehearsed, believable or aggressive and will often exploit shift patterns, relying on poor handover or communication between shifts.
“We are asking pharmacy owners and professionals to remain vigilant and ensure controls are in place to prevent repeat sales or to identify trends in requests.”