August 15, 2013, by Niall

Self-Selection of P Medicines!

A free for all pick ‘n’ mix or allowing patients to make an informed decision?


The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) planned to allow the general public to self-select P medicines from October 2013, but these plans have now been put on hold until 2014.

The Medicines Act of 1968 splits medicines into three categories:

  1. GSL (General Sales List) these medicines are readily available in a wide variety of retail outlets from supermarkets to corner shops. They are safe enough to be sold without the supervision of a pharmacist; examples are simple cough medicines and paracetamol.
  2. P (Pharmacy Medicines) there is no legal list of Pharmacy Medicines; they are described as medicines which are not on the GSL or POM list.
  3. POM (Prescription Only Medicines) can only be obtained through a valid prescription obtained from an authorised prescriber.

There are lots of changes from POM down to P and P to GSL, with new research and medicines proving their safety after a period of time on the market.

At the present time P Medicines must only be sold in registered pharmacies where the responsible pharmacist is on the premises, to enable intervention if deemed appropriate. They are not currently available for self-selection and must be out of reach to the public, behind the medicines counter or in locked cabinets.

This is what the GPhC wishes to change, to make all P Medicines available to the public on open display for self-selection. The decision on whether to move to self-selection would be down to the owner of the pharmacy or the local Superintendent Pharmacist, with three pre-conditions set out by the GPhC:

  1. Pharmacies need to notify the GPhC that they wish to move to self-selection.
  2. Guidance on compliance would need to be agreed upon in advance.
  3. The current legislation on P Medicines still applies until the new enforcements come into place (currently planned to be in 2014).


The GPhC considers that the advantage of this proposal is in making healthcare more transparent and accessible in line with the government’s present initiative. This would provide a way for pharmacies to increase their over the counter sales, to maximise business and help bridge the gap created by the downfall in income in the sector in recent years.

The main problems facing the GPhC seem clear; allowing the pharmacy owners or Superintendent Pharmacists to decide whether the self-selection of P Medicines would occur in individual pharmacies would lead to confusion in the general public. One pharmacy may allow self-selection and another not, both situated on the same high street. This could lead to problems with confusion and confrontation with pharmacy staff. This could also lead to profit hungry owners and business managers diluting the reputation of pharmacies as being guardians of healthcare and ensuring the safe use of medication.

The opportunity to prevent the sale of P Medications, with the potential to harm, would be lost, if they were on open display, thus making it easier for patients to abuse or cause accidental harm. Regulation of safe usage and appropriate sales in medicines going from POM to P and eventually to GSL would be lost.

We are seeing commercial pharmacies using special offers more and more to help drive sales of GSL items and this would transcend to P Medicines. As a result members of the public would be encouraged to ‘bulk’ buy thereby diminishing the belief that medicines need to be used in the correct and safe manner.

What are your thoughts, should we move to greater accessibility for patients in self-selection? Or should we keep the currently in place legislation?


The Pharmacist Defence Organisation currently has a campaign and a petition to stop the GPhC implementation of self-selection. You can view it here:


Posted in Law and EthicsPharmacy in the news