Pharmacy suffers from rabbit poison sale

July 1921: Did the Pharmacy Board approve a shopkeeper’s sales of cheap strychnine, harming pharmacists ‘in the public estimation’? 

The July 1921 edition of AJP included a report on “an important prosecution” under the New South Wales Poisons Act.  

In a case which the report said had “harmed pharmacists in the public estimation”, a retail storekeeper claimed the state Pharmacy Board had given him permission to sell strychnine, which his counsel claimed was being sold at a third of the price it would cost at a pharmacy. 

The report states that “a storekeeper sold strychnine without a licence. He claimed he was legally entitled
to do this—(1) Because it was sold for rabbit destruction; (2) it was coloured pink, and was therefore a poisonous mixture exempted under the Act; and (3) the seller was a wholesale dealer.

The magistrate found against the defendant on all points”.

However, the message to pharmacists doesn’t end there. The report continues: 

“Incidentally at the hearing two statements were made that seem to require further explanation. Defendant stated that he had made inquiries before selling the poison, and was informed by the
Pharmacy Board by circular that the poison could be sold without a permit.

This seems an extraordinary ex parte statement to make regarding a public body. Doubtless
the Pharmacy Board will make its position plain in due course, and clear up the evident
misunderstanding that has arisen.

The second statement was made by defendant’s counsel, who said that strychnine which would cost
10/ – [shillings] if purchased from the store would cost 30/ – if obtained from a chemist.

This class of attack is very common, because it is so easy to make assertions. It is to be hoped that the paper publishing the report was supplied with definite information showing that the attack was unwarranted.

The statement on its face is ridiculous. Unfortunately it has received wide publicity, and much harm has been done to pharmacists in the public estimation”.

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