A pharmacist has been sentenced to more than two years’ jail time for illegally supplying over £280,000 worth of prescription drugs to ‘criminal associates’, the Government’s medicines watchdog has reported.
Jaspar Ojela, 56, of Buftleholme Lane in West Bromwich, who owned Kates Hill Pharmacy in Dudley, was sentenced on Monday (13 January) to 28 months in prison at Wolverhampton Crown Court for buying drugs from wholesalers and illegally selling them on the black market.
The combination of both class B and class C drugs included opiate painkillers, tranquillisers and medications intended for cancer treatment, and came to an estimated street value of £280,490.
Mr Ojela pleaded guilty to the selling of these drugs without the requisite licences at an earlier court hearing on 1 November 2019.
The cancer medications Mr Ojela supplied are valuable on the black market and often abused by bodybuilders, who use them to counteract unwanted effects of hormone medication.
An investigation by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found that over eight months, between February and September 2016, Mr Ojela illegally supplied over 200,000 doses of the drugs to criminal associates.
He had purchased the drugs from two different wholesalers, the MHRA said.
The investigation was prompted by MHRA investigators, who grew ‘suspicious’ when A1 Pharma, a UK based pharmaceutical wholesaler, reported that during an audit they discovered the sale of ‘controlled drugs’ had not been recorded as such within the company’s management system.
Evidence found as part of the investigation suggested that the drugs supplied to A1 Pharma were purchased by criminal groups, who were diverting medicines from the regulated supply chain by cloning the identity of genuine overseas pharmaceutical companies and licensed pharmacies.
Suspicions around Mr Ojela grew when inspectors noticed his pharmacy was purchasing large quantities of controlled drugs, including Diazepam, Zolpidem and Zopiclone from pharmaceutical wholesalers.
During a police investigation, Mr Ojela admitted responsibility for purchasing the drugs in order to divert the supply of medicines from the regulated market to others operating within the black market.
In addition to the prosecution and prison sentence, Mr Ojela is facing court action from the MHRA to recover the proceedings of his offence. He is also facing disciplinary proceedings from The General Pharmaceutical Council.
‘Exploiting vulnerable people’
MHRA head of enforcement Mark Jackson, said: ‘It is a serious criminal offence to sell controlled drugs which are also prescription only medicines without a prescription.
‘Those who sell medicines illegally are exploiting vulnerable people and have no regard for their health. Prescription-only medicines are potent and should only be taken under medical supervision.’