Opening a pharmacy is often what most pharmacists seek to achieve; a life ambition. But all too frequently it is a bad case of pre-pharmacy jitters that prevents pharmacists from getting the ball rolling. Opening a pharmacy can be a lucrative business investment. Although pharmacies can be hugely profitable it can take a great deal of work and some daunting decisions to even know where to begin. There are countless legal considerations that must be thought through before an investment decision of this sort can be made.
When opening a pharmacy the owner must deal with a number of government guidelines specifying rules on registration and rules on obtaining approval from Primary Care Trust (“PCT”).
There have been recent changes to pharmacy laws – which industry insiders have likened to buses; you wait decades for one new law and then two new pieces of legislation arrive at once. The Department of Health laid down before parliament the consolidated Human Medicines Regulations 2012 which came into force on the 14th August 2012, and the new National Health Service (Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations 2012, which will come into effect from the 1st September 2012.
Below are only a few of the implications that the new regulations will have on those thinking of opening a pharmacy and how to become an independent drug dealer, the legal way.
Who can register the opening of a pharmacy?
In most parts of the UK only a limited category of people can register the opening of a pharmacy. These include a pharmacist, a partnership comprised exclusively of pharmacists, or a body corporate usually a company or a limited liability partnership.
The new 2012 regulations incorporate these stricter rules to ensure that pharmaceutical services do not fall into the hands of back alley drug dealers who are not lawfully conducting a pharmacy business.
What does the process of opening a pharmacy involve?
In order to provide particular pharmaceutical services i.e. being able to dispense prescriptions issued under the National Health Service, an application must be made to the PCT for inclusion in the pharmaceutical list. Ironically, the law provides for this publically accessible pharmaceutical list of all registered drug dealers (pharmacists) and the area in which they deal. You need to get yourself on the list prior to opening your pharmacy. The application must be submitted to the appropriate PCT which will depend on the proposed location of the pharmacy.
Those who are not already on the pharmaceutical list of the relevant PCT must also submit a “fitness to practice” application alongside the PCT application. This requires declarations to be made about any adverse fitness to practice findings and whether there are any on-going investigations against the applicant. Similar to when the police make arrests in an attempt to prevent illegal drug trade, pharmaceutical regulators can make life difficult for those wanting to open a pharmacy and have the power to reject applications. This can be prevented if the application is made diligently.
It’s not over yet, there’s more… You need references from your fellow legitimate drug dealers detailing your fitness to practice. When an application is made to the PCT, references need to be provided by two referees whom a pharmacist has worked with in the last two years for a period of more than three months. The referees must be willing to provide references and if two referees cannot be found, a letter explaining the reasons for this should be submitted with the application.
All sounds a little too complicated right? If the necessary steps are taken to produce a full application the stress is minimal and rejections can be avoided altogether.
Unfortunately it does not end there … once PCT consent is obtained which can take up to four months the pharmacy premises must also be registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. This can take a further 8 weeks.
The number of applications and registrations to be made can be overwhelming. The key to completing a transaction of this nature on time, whilst protecting the buyer’s interest is to PLAN the deal. Timing applications and the site purchase is vital to meeting any hopes of opening a pharmacy for business at your desired time.
Let us consider this example – you enter into the buying process with the vendors and during this time the PCT informs you that your application has been rejected. You could be faced with losing any costs including the deposit you have already paid over. Consequently making the sale or lease agreement for a premises conditional upon the application being granted by the PCT, is essential in protecting the buyers interests and ensures the buyer is no longer under an obligation to buy or lease the premise if application to PCT is for any reason rejected.
In summary, when we need a medical fix we ask the experts – PHAMARCISTS! In the same way, pharmacy businesses are not ordinary businesses, and pharmacists can benefit from the added advice of solicitors who are familiar with the pharmacy businesses and the practicalities of opening a pharmacy.
At Saracens we can help with the myriad of issues faced whilst opening a pharmacy making the transition as smooth as possible. These include;
- Buying and selling of pharmacies,
- Joint ventures between pharmacists and GP’s,
- Pharmacy applications,
- Choosing the appropriate PCT,
- Employment rights of individual pharmacists, and
- Commercial agreements for pharmacies.
So if you are thinking of buying or opening a pharmacy or simply require any other advice on pharmaceutical services, contact our specialist healthcare team who are dedicated to providing you with sound legal advice coupled with an unrivalled service from start to finish.
photo credit: frankh