The nightmare that is Boots the Chemist

Boots Dispensing Medication – Serious Failures

Written: June 2012

Some outlets and general businesses here in the United Kingdom over the years have formed part of the retail fabric of our high streets.

One of these is Boots the Chemist. The long established and until recently much respected health and beauty retailer and pharmacist.  For generations we have placed our trust with this firm whilst it has built its reputation and stature in our towns and cities across the country.

For many years, like thousands of others, I have had my repeat prescriptions handled by Boots the Chemist.  Every month or so the medications are repeated and, due to my disability, delivered to my door.  A very satisfactory arrangement you would think and highly convenient if you are unable to walk or travel any distance.

Last week my confidence and trust in Boots the Chemist evaporated permanently without trace.  After receiving my regular medication I could not understand why I was feeling somewhat unwell.

Boots the Chemist say they have two checks before dispensing medication to the general public. The say they employ actual pharmacists. How come the gave me two packets of Allopurinol 100 mg tablets (intended treat hyperuricemia) instead of Atenolol 100 mg tablets (a drug belonging to the group of beta blockers). The contents are one thing, Boots the Chemist label is something else.

It was only when I checked the box allegedly containing my regular medication and with the dosage label correctly printed upon it that I discovered that the contents were not the prescribed drugs.

To make matters worse, I know nothing of medical matters and place my trust (even my life) in the hands of those who are qualified. Naturally this had to happen at the weekend when my general practitioner is not at the office and when most businesses are shut down or only half working.

Can you imagine the sheer fear that went through me to discover that in fact I had been taking  dosages of completely the wrong medication despite the labelling to the contrary.

During the weekend I sent a series of e-mails to Boots the Chemist in the United Kingdom and their holding company in Europe. In a detailed e-mail I indicated to this bastion of the high street that they could have killed me. I told them that because of their dangerous mistake I intend to take every action possible to ensure in future that the unwell, the elderly, the disabled and the frail are not put at risk by this firm again.

By Monday morning (11th June 2012) I presume the alarm bells must have been ringing across the Boots organisation. I actually received several nervous phone calls from the regional office.  The first priority was to reset my correct medication and to ensure that my health wasn’t further damaged by the ridiculous actions of these people.  My fear was (and remains) that I could no longer trust the medication from this company. By the evening a pharmacist turned up at my home with allegedly the correct medication.

As evidence I showed her the boxes containing the incorrect medication and the dreadful errors on them.  I told her I was not prepared to give them the boxes back because I might well need them in court at a future date.  But when I tried to have a face-to-face conversation with her very few questions could be answered.  Clearly it was an error internally on a certain scale and they were not prepared to comment even to me, the victim.

I have demanded a compensation from Boots the Chemist for the appalling error (or should I say errors) which caused me to be unwell and to be thrown into a sheer panic.  As a stroke victim my fear and alert is always heightened.

The “complaint” process is currently under way with Boots the Chemist and I will naturally keep my readers informed step by step. But in fact I am taking up this whole matter up with the actual decision makers at Boots and with the regulators that should oversee the guidelines and ensure our physical safety and confidence when we take our medication.

So far Boots have informed me that they have two levels of security and double checks before they issue prescribed medication to the general public.  Clearly in my case (and maybe in the other cases) this is simply not true. If it was true I would not be writing this blog. From my point of view and I am sure from a great many others confidence in the pharmaceutical side of its business is fast diminishing to a point of no return.

How can we trust these people in the future?  And what dangers are we being put in by this pharmaceutical company and distributor to the general public?  And how many horrendous other mistakes have they made?

This is the stuff of nightmare and I for one have lost all confidence in Boots the Chemist, it’s alleged watertight systems, security when handling these medications and the business as a whole. I am now genuinely fearful of the various medications I am taking – worried the packaging doesn’t match the contents and range of other issues. Do you blame me?

My message to the general public is keep your eyes open and make sure the medication you are receiving is for real. Despite everything and brief conversations with Boots the Chemist, from my horrendous experience we are taking a risk and a big one at that.

I will update you.


15 June 2012 0915: Phone call to: (name withheld) Pharmaceutical Superintendents Office: 0115 950 6111 who had no comment.

15 June 2012 0945: Email to the above containing a link to this blog.

15 June 2012 daytime: In the process of informing the following of this issue:

Local health authority
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central,
Richard Ottaway, MP for Croydon,
Malcolm Wicks MP for Croydon North
Department of Health, Public health, adult social care, and the NHS
various media

Ian Waugh