Pharmacy legislation: public protector or professional hindrance?

Christopher A. Langley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pharmacy originates from a background of medication compounding and supply. More recently, this role has developed away from an absolute focus on the supply of pharmaceuticals with, for example, the advent of pharmacist prescribing. Nevertheless, for a majority of the profession, medication supply remains a core activity. Regulation of the pharmacy profession is now the responsibility of the General Pharmaceutical Council, although up until 27 September 2010, this role fell to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB). Before this change, in one of the most high-profile legal cases involving a pharmacist in a professional capacity, R. v Lee, a pharmacist was prosecuted firstly for gross negligence manslaughter, later revised to offences under the Medicines Act 1968, for a single error relating to medication supply, and was given a suspended custodial sentence. Offences against sections 64 or 85 of the Medicines Act are absolute offences and there is no due diligence defence. Prosecution of a pharmacist for the supply of incorrect medication may seem a measured course of action to protect the public from the wrongful supply of potent pharmacotherapeutic agents; however, further analysis of Lee indicates that this approach may be counterproductive. An appeal of the original conviction in the Lee case has resulted in a clarification of the interpretation of section 85(5); however currently, prosecutions under section 64 are still a possibility. Owing to the seriousness of a criminal conviction under section 64, this continuation will potentially stifle the profession's ability to learn from dispensing errors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-108
Number of pages22
JournalMedical Law Review
Issue number1
Early online date9 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Medical law review following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Langley, C. A. (2014). Pharmacy legislation: public protector or professional hindrance. Medical law review, 22(1), 87-108 is available online at:


  • dispensing errors
  • medication supply
  • Medicines Act 1968
  • pharmacy
  • professional regulation
  • section 64


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