"they knew the risks associated with the drug"
Two Solihull-based pharmacists have been jailed after they sold more than half a million sleeping tablets on the black market.
Business partners Narvinder Nandra and Dean Dookhan pleaded guilty to supplying a controlled Class C drug to another and possessing a medicinal product for the purpose of wholesale distribution without a licence.
An investigation was conducted by MHRA.
It found that between September 2015 and May 2016, the pair illegally sold 20,790 packets of Zolpidem to Trinidad and Tobago, equal to 582,120 individual tablets.
Jonathan Barker, prosecuting, said the drug is prescribed “sparingly” and could lead to physical and psychological dependency.
He said: “The defendants knew Zolpidem to be a controlled drug, they knew the risks associated with the drug, they also knew the strict regulatory regime governing the wholesale of the controlled drug, in obtaining a licence from the MHRA and export licence from the Home Office for each shipment.
“Despite all this, they chose to bypass the regulator regime and supply significant amounts to someone in Trinidad who was not a legitimate wholesaler.
“They worked together to use their pharmacies as business cover to source Zolpidem from pharmaceutical wholesalers.”
When investigators began questioning him, Dookhan tried to blame another pharmacist.
Nandra was responsible for the exportation and would misdescribe the packages to avoid them being detected.
He initially pleaded guilty ‘on a basis’, claiming he did not know Zolpidem was a controlled drug, was unaware an exemption had expired in 2012 and that he believed the recipient in Trinidad and Tobago was a legitimate pharmacist.
But Judge Francis Laird QC said:
“The court found Mr Nandra had lied constantly about the issues to be determined. The whole of his evidence lacked credibility.”
A payment of approximately £2,800 into Nandra’s personal account was found.
However, it is not known exactly how much he and Dookhan made through the racket.
The pair paid just over £9,000 for the sleeping tablets with Judge Laird treating the case as a “double your money” operation.
Mr Barker added:
“It’s fair to say they were motivated by gain. They would have made a significant profit.”
“What they wanted to do was to create a sideline.”
Andrew Wesley, defending Dookhan, said his client cared for his elderly mother, had several health problems himself and since ceasing the offence five years ago had carried on working in pharmacy training and supporting others.
He added: “It was a poor mistake and poor choice. But his conduct before and since then has been exemplary.
“He has known from an early stage what the likely sentence is to be. He has had that hanging over him.”
Kevin McCartney, defending Nandra, stated the offence would be “terminal” to his career regardless of his sentence.
He said: “He was a competent and respected pharmacist for many, many years.
“In his references, the repeated observation is this is completely out of character.
“His devotion to his family and friends is unwavering. He’s fell from that.
“At some point a decision was made for Mr Nandra and Mr Dookhan, for two people who otherwise lived a blameless existence and were competent at their job, to do something incredibly stupid for relatively small financial gain that was less than anticipated.”
Judge Laird said: “It is difficult to see a worse offence committed by a pharmacist.
“It’s like a solicitor stealing someone’s money. Pharmacists are trusted with people’s drugs.”
Birmingham Mail reported that Nandra was jailed for 30 months.
Dookhan was sentenced to 27 months in prison.