Regulator unveils updated safeguards for online pharmacies

New regulations have been unveiled by the pharmacy regulator the General Pharmaceutical Council for the purchasing of medicines online.

The regulator has introduced guidelines to try and make sure medicines are clinically appropriate for patients. These include processes to carry out identity checks on people obtaining medicines, the ability to identify requests for medicines that are inappropriate, and for websites to not allow a patient to choose a prescription-only medicine and its quantity before there has been an appropriate consultation.

Further safeguards will have to be in place for certain types of prescription-only medication, including antibiotics, medicines that are liable to abuse, overuse or misuse, medicines that require ongoing monitoring or management, and non-surgical cosmetic medicinal products.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council said: “People can be put at serious risk if they are able to obtain medicines that are not appropriate for them. We are now putting in place this updated guidance with further safeguards to protect people.

“I would strongly urge patients and the public wanting to obtain medicines online to only use online pharmacies registered with us, to protect their health. These pharmacies have to meet our standards and follow this guidance, so they provide safe and effective services, and we will be inspecting pharmacies to make sure this is the case.

“We are also continuing to work closely with other regulators involved in regulating online primary care services, governments and other stakeholders across Great Britain to improve the quality of care for patients online.”

The General Pharmaceutical Council’s advice outlines that people should make sure the online pharmacy is registered with them, to expect to be asked questions about health and identity before being able to buy medicine, and to avoid websites which offer to supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription.

Scott McDougall, co-founder and registered manager of The Independent Pharmacy, said: “We welcome any additional regulations in the online pharmacy sector. They protect the 28 million people in the UK that would buy medication online from the providers that put profit before patient care.

“Most CQC-regulated online pharmacies already meet the new GPhC standards. Rather, the updated guidelines safeguard patients from the providers that previously avoided regulation of their prescribing practices – and therefore posed potentially fatal risks to their patients.

“Moving forward, we would like to see a proactive approach to regulation of the online pharmacy industry where the GPhC engages with the CQC and providers. This will enable a consistent and effective approach to improving standards of safety and care for patients.”

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