Paul Rutter, professor of pharmacy at the University of Wolverhampton, has written a piece in the BMJ suggesting that it is time to end the ‘monopoly’ of pharmacists over the sale of certain medicines. some of his points are good ones, and made me think: for instance, there is no evidence that better health outcomes are achieved via pharmacy-only medicine sales than through general retail access. But a few minutes’ thought and i can see problems with opening access to a wider range of medicines, and most of those are to do with health outcomes.

Pharmacists, giving advice and selling certain restricted, but non-prescription, medicines, seems a sensible way of gently regulating the use of such medicines. Open retail access brings risks: overdose is a particular issue, as is the potential treatment of unwitting, unwilling, or inappropriate people.

It’s an interesting idea, but unless we are prepared to train and regulate retailers, it’s hard to see how this is a more sensible option than what we presently have.