A BBC investigation has exposed nine London pharmacies that sold prescription-only drugs, including powerful sedatives, for cash.
Undercover reporters were sold sedatives (Valium and temazepam), opiates (Oramorph), antibiotics (amoxicillin) and Viagra for much higher prices than the cost of a prescription.
The BBC’s Inside Out programme has led to calls for stronger controls over pharmacies, which legally can provide such drugs without a prescription only in an emergency.
The easiest of the drugs to obtain by this illegal route were Valium (diazepam) and amoxicillin.
All of the illegal drug sales provoked concern from medical experts:
• Diazepam and temazepam are highly addictive and fatal overdoses are common.
• Oramorph (a bottle of which was purchased by a journalist for £200) is a potent oral form of morphine.
• Antibiotics are widely over-used, leading to poor patient response and the development of antibiotic-resistant disease strains.
• Viagra is dangerous for patients with cardiovascular disease.
Sedatives such as Valium are not controlled as strictly as opiates, but are widely linked to addiction, abuse and overdose.
There is concern that the overlapping regulatory roles of MHRA and the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) may be leading to poor control over some widely prescribed drugs.
The GPhC has the power to cancel a pharmacist’s right to practise, but does not compile a list of pharmacies known to have sold drugs illegally.