Pharmacy owner fined £25,000 for illegally supplying prescription medicines

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A 63-year-old pharmacist and a 33-year-old pharmacy technician were sentenced at Downpatrick Crown Court yesterday in relation to their involvement in the unlawful supply of prescription only medicines from a pharmacy in Co Down.

Gerard Maginn, 63, company director and owner of Clanua Ltd trading as Harts Pharmacy in Main Street, Newcastle, was sentenced to 100 hours community service and fines totalling £25,000.

Maginn previously pleaded guilty to 18 charges before the court in relation to the unlawful supply of prescription only medicines from his pharmacy.

Pharmacy technician and company secretary of Clanua Ltd Gordon Thomson, 33, received 80 hours community service and was fined £1,000.

Thomson also previously pleaded guilty to 18 charges before the court in relation to the unlawful supply of prescription only medicines from the pharmacy in which he worked.

The court heard that the Department of Health’s Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG) enforcement officers visited Harts Pharmacy in March, 2017. Following an audit and inspection process it was established that the pharmacy had supplied a significant range of prescription medicines in the absence of a qualified registered pharmacist on Friday 24 March 2017 between 9am and 6pm. The medicines unlawfully supplied included warfarin, pregabalin, a range of antibiotics and methadone.

Peter Moore, senior medicines enforcement officer with the Department of Health, who conducted the investigation said: “Medicines are not everyday consumer goods – and appropriately, strict legal controls apply to their sale and supply. It is with good reason that the law requires a qualified pharmacist to be present in the pharmacy dispensary when prescription medicines are being supplied to members of the public.

“When entering a pharmacy the public should have reasonable expectation that their prescription needs will be met by a qualified professional. Pharmacists are there not only to dispense medicines but to advise or assist patients in the use of these medicines and most importantly to ensure the safe and effective running of the pharmacy. Unfortunately this did not happen in this case and members of the public could have been endangered as a result.”

Canice Ward, acting head of the department’s Medicines Regulatory Group added: “This was the first prosecution of this nature in Northern Ireland. People can be assured that pharmacies in Northern Ireland are subject to regular departmental inspection and compliance visits to ensure that they continue to operate safely and within the law.

“This conviction sends a clear message that there are serious consequences if an owner attempts to operate a pharmacy without a pharmacist being present or if someone tries to work as a pharmacist when they are not qualified or registered to practise. Patients and the public can have confidence that the Medicines Regulatory Group will take decisive action to prevent pharmacies operating in this manner.”

Following yesterday’s conviction the matter will now be referred to the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, the regulatory and professional body for pharmacists in Northern Ireland.