Calls for extra online safeguards to be extended to more medicines

23 Aug 2018

The categories of medicines that require further safeguards when available online do not extend far enough, the NPA has warned.

The NPA’s position comes in response to a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) paper on the safety of online doctor and pharmacy services.

While the NPA agrees opiates and sedatives, antimicrobials and products for chronic conditions should be singled out, the NPA is calling for more categories to be added.

In particular, the NPA believes medicines that require an element of “counselling” such as erectile dysfunction treatment and the morning after pill should be included in the list.

Safeguarding measures proposed by the GPhC include: requirements for physical examinations; contact between prescribers and patients’ GPs, and; recording of prescribers’ decisions.

The NPA has also raised in its response concerns that some online pharmacies are engaged with prescription direction following a number of complaints from its members on the subject.

Helga Mangion, NPA policy manager, said: “Medicines can harm as well as heal and they are not ordinary items of commerce. Both the NPA and GPhC recognise this.

“The proposed safeguarding measures do not extend far enough into those categories of drugs where a meaningful interaction with a health care professional is vital.

“In the absence of face-to-face support, processes must be in place to ensure the most appropriate advice is and recommendation is given and sometimes recorded too.

“We must not forgo clinical and safeguarding excellence in healthcare by seeking to meet the rising expectations of people who are after all patients first, not simply consumers.”

The NPA is backing other measures in the report including proposals that would prevent patients from selecting a prescription-only medicine before a consultation.

However, the NPA is asking for further clarity on how the GPhC’s call to have regulatory oversight of non-UK prescribers could be enforced.

Furthermore the NPA said the discussion paper had missed an opportunity to tighten up verification processes for online prescribers, particularly those from outside the UK.

NPA members can read the full response here