Dispensing error defence to become law

Reshma Trilochun Friday 06th April 2018 11:05 EDT

As from 16th April 2018 the defence from criminal prosecution for unintended dispensing errors by pharmacists will become law.

The law will allow a pharmacy professional or unregistered member of staff to have a defence against a criminal condemnation for an accidental or unintentional dispensing error if they meet a set of conditions, which include showing they had acted “in the course of [their] profession”; that they had provided or sold a medicine on the back of a prescription or patient group directive; and had “promptly” notified the patient regarding the error, as soon as the error is detected.

As per the law which is being implemented, criminal prosecution should only apply if there is evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” that the pharmacist or staff either abused their position and professional skills “for an improper purpose”, or displayed “a deliberate disregard for patient safety”.

In 2015, the Department of Health and Social Care reiterated that with this new law, failing to abide by the pharmacy's procedures would not represent grounds for criminal proceedings on its own.

Asian Voice contacted the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) regarding the enforcement of this law.

The Head of Claims at the NPA, Glyn Walduck said, “Over the years we have seen a number of prosecutions under Section 64 of The Medicines Act which have resulted in some pharmacists being unfairly convicted under a strict liability offence for making inadvertent dispensing errors. Criminal sanctions in such circumstances are disproportionate so we believe this new defence is a welcome and significant step forward. The change should enable prosecutors to use Section 64 only in the most reckless cases, thus promoting fairness, proportionality and importantly, enabling the profession to continue on the path of openness and learning from mistakes.”

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