Exposed: The pharmacists acting like 'small time drug pushers', selling addictive and dangerous pills illegally
London chemists found to be selling antibiotics and drugs like Valium and opiates without a
prescriptionResearchers also bought temazepam – a potentially lethal sleeping tablet if wrongly usedShadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said high street pharmacists were 'acting like small time drug pushers’
17:41 GMT, 17 December 2012
Chemists are putting the lives of patients at risk by illegally selling addictive and dangerous prescription drugs, an investigation has revealed.
Undercover filming to be broadcast tonight reveals a dangerous black market trade in the capital where pharmacists sell antibiotics and drugs like Valium and opiates without a prescription.
A BBC Inside Out London's
investigation exposed numerous Inside Out's investigation also reveals how certain drugs described by doctors as highly dangerous and addictive are available with astonishing ease.
Undercover: A BBC researcher buys a bottle of Oramorph – which contains the addictive painkiller morphine – without a prescription. The investigation found some London chemists are illegally selling addictive and dangerous prescription drugs
Four pharmacists at four different pharmacies have been secretly filmed dispensing Valium or equivalent drug, without a prescription to a BBC researcher.
Valium is one of the drugs known as benzodiazepines. If taken for more than a short period it can cause addiction.
In a space of a few weeks the programme bought nearly 300 tablets.
More worryingly, undercover footage shows how a BBC researcher can easily get temazepam – a potentially lethal sleeping tablet if wrongly used – at one of the pharmacies investigated.
Class A drug users often take it to come down after a fix and pharmacists, under the law, must keep it under lock and key.
The investigation also reveals how, at one of the pharmacies, the Inside Out researcher got a bottle of powerful pain killer morphine without a prescription.
An overdose on this could kill, say doctors, but in the undercover footage the pharmacist told the BBC researcher that ‘you can adjust the dose however you want’.
The Government now faces urgent calls to
overhaul pharmacy regulation.
Latest figures show more people die from abuse of some prescription drugs than cocaine and ecstasy combined.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said people would be 'shocked to see high street pharmacists acting like small time drug pushers'
Prescription drugs can be dangerous, often addictive and can kill. Selling them with no prescription breaks the law and the pharmacist's code of conduct.
Even a common antibiotic like amoxicillin can be dangerous if misused and only a qualified professional can decide whether someone is suitable to take it. In an emergency a pharmacist can issue the drug but they must take full details.
All nine pharmacies the BBC approached during this investigation dispensed amoxicillin over the counter without prescription.
In the last year, the General Pharmaceutical council told the BBC it had taken action against just one pharmacy in the whole country illegally selling drugs.
In the course of filming BBC Inside Out London found nine pharmacies in a few weeks within just a few miles of each other in West London.
Dr William Shanahan, lead clinician at
Central and North West London NHS Trust, said the pharmacists were
‘electing to bypass the checks and balances of these potentially
He added: '[These pharmacists] are
putting patient's lives at huge risk by doing this. It's disgraceful,
reprehensible and inexcusable. They are interfering with people's health
and exposing them to the risk of serious side effects and even death.'
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham told the programme: ‘I think people will be shocked to see high street pharmacists acting like small time drug pushers’.
In light of the BBC evidence, he questioned whether medicines watchdogs were “fit for purpose” and called for an urgent review:
‘Quite frankly I was lost for words – on the high street, people feeding addiction, causing great harm.
'I think what's been uncovered here asks serious questions of the regulatory system of pharmacies
'It's for the government now to order a review into whether the system of regulation is doing a job and for pharmacies to be acting in this way.'
'This is unacceptable on every level – so there has to be a proper look now at whether or not the system that regulates pharmacies is fit for purpose.'
Inside Out London contacted the pharmacies featured in the programme to ask for an explanation. They all failed to provide one.
The programme will be aired tonight at 7.30pm on BBC1.