Pharmacy regulator to review guidance for online providers amid increasing patient safety concerns

Pharmacy regulator issues new proposals to review guidance for online pharmacy services.


[London, UK] The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) plans to strengthen guidance for online providers amid increasing complaints that it is ‘sometimes too easy’ to purchase certain medicines on the internet.

The pharmacy regulator says that it will continue to encourage ‘responsible innovation’, but it is concerned about the sale and supply of medicines that might not be clinically appropriate for certain patients, such as antibiotics, opiates and sedatives. 

How are online services regulated?

The process is complex: some pharmacies operate alone, while others work alongside prescribing services, the GPhC explains.

If a pharmacy provides online services and works with a prescribing service, both based in Great Britain, then the GPhC will regulate the pharmacy and professionals working there, the General Medical Council will regulate the doctors working for the prescribing service, and the Care Quality Commission in England, Health Improvement in Scotland and Health Inspectorate in Wales will regulate the online prescribing service.

The MHRA is 'responsible for authorising the display of the EU common logo to show that the supplier is permitted to supply medicines online'. 

But if a pharmacy works alongside a prescribing service that is not based in Great Britain, the other entities will be regulated by the relevant organisation in the country in which they operate. 

Updated guidance expected to be released towards the end of 2018

The GPhC is proposing several areas of focus for the updated guidance, including further transparency for patients or stronger safeguards for certain prescription-only medicines, and it is now seeking the views of the public, with a discussion period set to run until 21 August. 

Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the GPhC, said:

"We want to play our part in strengthening the safeguards in place for patients and the public through the guidance we set for pharmacy owners and through our inspections of online pharmacy services. 

"We are also working closely with other regulators in Great Britain involved in regulating online prescribing services to make sure patients are protected at each stage.

“We want to hear people’s views on these proposals, to make sure we have addressed all of the key issues in this rapidly changing area. We are particularly keen to hear the experiences of patients and the public who may have used online pharmacy services.”

You can access the discussion paper here

Related content:

Regulatory bodies ask for caution when purchasing online medicines

Leontina Postelnicu

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