Safe custody of controlled drugs: Why UK pharma logistics companies need strong rooms

Darran Bailey
Posted by Darran Bailey
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When building a strong room for storage of controlled drugs, numerous factors must be considered to make sure it fully meets both legal requirements and your own business needs. In this blog post we cover what types of companies and drugs are involved.

Any company working with or handling controlled drugs (CDs) in the UK pharmaceutical industry, including manufacturers, packaging companies, distributors, wholesalers and regional depots, must obtain a license which ensures they are following correct procedures so that drugs which may be subject to theft and abuse are kept safe and secure.

This licensing process is overseen by the Drugs & Firearms Licensing Unit (DFLU) of the UK Home Office ministerial department and the requirements are normally met through the construction of a strong room which controls and protects access to these drugs, to keep them out of the wrong hands.

When building or expanding any strong room for the pharma sector, there are numerous factors that must be carefully considered – to make sure the solution you end up with fully meets both the legal requirements and your own business needs. This is the key to handling CDs in a smooth manner, to support the efficient and profitable operation of your company.

Government licensing laws

Simply put, you need a strong room because the government requires it. In the UK, the Drugs & Firearms Licensing Unit (DFLU) has the task of issuing guidelines, for existing or prospective new operations, that must be followed by any pharma business to obtain a license for storage of CD.

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For bulk CD stock which is too large to be stored in a smaller safe, the DFLU recommendation is to follow the European standard EN 1143-1 to use a Grade VI 6-sided strong room built with a welded or bolted construction. In actual practice, a 5-sided room secured to a concrete floor is permitted, provided certain criteria are met.

Type of drugs secured, and companies involved in the supply chain

controlled drugs

Any business handling bulk storage of buprenorphine, diethylpropion, phenazepam and temazepam must guarantee safe storage using a strong room. This applies to any company involved in any aspect of the supply chain which is handling these drugs. Typical customers can be the following:

  • Drug manufacturers
  • Drug packaging companies
  • Drug distributors (third party warehouse storage and logistics)
  • Drug wholesalers (third party resellers)
  • Drug storage companies - regional depots supporting chemists, prisons, NHS, etc.

More specific official information from the UK Home Office ministerial department about respective security standards can be found in the Home Office Security Guidance for Controlled Drugs.


Want to learn more about the important factors to consider when planning a strong room and the key things you should look for in a supplier? If so, download our free PDF entitled “Strong Rooms for Controlled Drugs: A Guide for the Pharma Sector” by clicking here.

Free guide - strong rooms for pharma companies

Based on our long experience at Gunnebo as a trusted supplier of strong rooms for controlled drugs, we are happy to support you in any project in which you are looking to work with a professional, well-reputed and reliable partner. Get in touch with us, click here.

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