A longitudinal study of United Kingdom pharmacists' misdemeanours trials, tribulations and trends

Julie Tullett, Paul Rutter, David Brown*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Standards of UK pharmacy practice are maintained by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, which has the power to take a range of sanctions, including removal of the right to practice, against those found guilty of malpractice. This function is currently under review. 

Objective: To conduct a longitudinal study in order to define trends and identify areas where remedial or preventative support could be focused. 

Method: Case analysis of reports of individuals' misdemeanours published in the British Pharmaceutical Journal over a 12-year period (September 1988 - October 2000). Professional and personal misdemeanours were considered. 

Main outcome measure: Nature of misdemeanour, conviction or disciplinary proceedings against individual, practising pharmacists in the study period. Reasons offered for committing the misdemeanour and penalties applied. 

Results: 344 cases, involving a wide range of personal (162) and professional (590) misdemeanours were found. On an annual basis, the maximum incidence of pharmacists found guilty of any misdemeanour was extremely low (< 0.1 of 1% on the pharmaceutical register). The most common professional misdemeanour was failure to keep adequate written records. The most common personal misdemeanour was fraud. The most common reason cited for committing any misdemeanour was financial gain. Numbers in individual offence categories were persistent but low and there were few obvious trends with time. The odds of involvement ratio for male versus female pharmacists was 7.36 (CI: 5.23-10.35) and for ethnic minority versus Caucasian pharmacists was 3.8 (CI: 3.06-4.72). The most stringent penalties (either imprisonment or removal of the right to practice and frequently both) were applied to cases involving personal use or trafficking of drugs subject to abuse. 

Conclusions: The current self-regulation of pharmacy practice in the UK involves a wide range of misdemeanours of varying severity; but the incidence of reports of pharmacists found guilty of malpractice was extremely low. The nature of misdemeanours appeared to change little over the period of the study; this study therefore indicates the spectrum of misdemeanours likely to be encountered by a regulating board in the immediate to medium-term future. If regulatory changes such as competence-based practice rights are introduced, the spectrum may change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-51
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacy World and Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2003


  • Ethics
  • Misdemeanour
  • Pharmacy practice
  • Regulation
  • United Kingdom


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