Khaira was suspended from General Pharmaceutical Council pharmacist register. (Representational)London:
An Indian-origin pharmacist in Britain has been sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for selling hundreds of thousands of doses of addictive prescription drugs in the black market.
Balkeet Singh Khaira, who worked at his mother's Khaira Pharmacy on the high street in West Bromwich, was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday. The court was informed that the 36-year-old sold the restricted medicines to be sold only with prescriptions at huge profit during 2016 and 2017, with the value of the pills on the black market estimated at over 1 million pounds.
"It is a serious criminal offence to sell controlled, unlicensed or prescription-only medicines in this way," said Grant Powell, Enforcement Officer with the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) who led the case.
"Anyone who sells medicines illegally could be exploiting vulnerable people and clearly has no regard for their health or welfare. Prescription-only medicines are potent and should only be taken under medical supervision. We work closely with regulatory and law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those involved," he said.
The sentence this week came after Khaira had pleaded guilty to five counts of supplying controlled Class C drugs at Birmingham Crown Court last month.
The court heard that he had qualified as a pharmacist in 2008 and was working in the family business, Khaira Care Limited. His mother, whose pharmacy he worked at, was found not to be involved in any of the criminal activity.
Balkeet Singh Khaira made over 59,000 pounds from the Class C drugs, which are prescribed for pain relief and to treat conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. Following an investigation led by the MHRA, investigators and partners from West Midlands Police visited the pharmacy.
Records found on the premises showed that of hundreds of thousands of doses of diazepam, nitrazepam, tramadol, zolpidem and zopiclone purchased from wholesalers, only a small percentage had been dispensed against prescription. This left more than 800,000 pills unaccounted for that Khaira later admitted he had sold to drug dealers.
The investigation began following allegations that the pharmacy was selling large quantities of prescription-only medicine without a prescription.
When contacted about the investigation by the General Pharmaceutical Council, Khaira pretended to be his mother and said he was "shocked and blindsided" by the accusations. He then went on to provide falsified evidence intended to disprove the allegations, the MHRA said.
While Khaira admitted to the charges, he maintains that after initially making a voluntary sale to drug dealers he was then forced to sell further medicines after he was threatened outside of his pharmacy.
"He has refused to provide any information on who these people were or who he sold to," the MHRA noted.
Khaira was suspended from the General Pharmaceutical Council's pharmacist register under an interim order, meaning that he was unable to practise while waiting for the case to come to court.
The independent MHRA, an executive agency of the government's Department of Health and Social Care, is responsible for regulating all medicines and medical devices in the UK.
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