Two pharmacists have received suspended prison sentences after pleading guilty to supplying Class C drugs.

The offences were uncovered by an investigation by the criminal enforcement unit of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).

Mandip Sidhu (47) from Littleover, Derby, was sentenced to two years imprisonment on each of five counts of supplying Class C drugs and four months for forgery, all to run concurrently and suspended for 24 months on the condition that she completes 200 hours of community service for her role in the illegal supply of diazepam, zolpidem and zopiclone.

Nabeil Nasr (42), from Cheadle, Greater Manchester, received a prison sentence of two years for each of two counts of supplying Class C drugs diazepam and zopiclone, and one year for each of two counts of wholesale dealing without a wholesale licence, suspended for 24 months, also on the condition that he complete 200 hours community service.

Ms Sidhu and Mr Nasr were pharmacists registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council at the time of offending. Ms Sidhu was director of Pharmaceutical Health Limited (PHL), based in Derby, and Mr Nasr owned several pharmacies across the North West of England.

The illegal supply of Class C drugs took place between May 2013 and June 2017 and was described in Southwark Crown Court as being on an ‘industrial scale’, with over 55 million doses involved. Of those, over 47 million doses were of diazepam.

Ms Sidhu’s guilty plea for forgery related to a false invoice made in an attempt to mislead an inspector from the MHRA into believing medicines had been sold to a company outside the European Economic Area.

The court heard that her company PHL purchased 4.27 million tablets in August 2014, and 4.5 million tablets in March 2015, even though PHL had not legally dispensed any medicines against a prescription since July 19 2013.

This compares with five million diazepam tablets legally dispensed against prescription in the whole of England during 2014.

While both Ms Sidhu and Mr Nasr held various licences for their work as pharmacists, neither held a Home Office Controlled Drug Licence required for trading in Class C substances.

Andy Morling, MHRA deputy director (criminal enforcement), said: ‘This successful prosecution demonstrates that the MHRA will use the full range of powers and tools available to us to protect the public from the harm caused by those illegally trading in powerful medicines.’