GPhC takes action against unsafe supply of high risk medicines online

20 Sep 2019

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is taking action against online pharmacies who have been identified as supplying high-risk medicines without proper checks.

Recent pharmacy inspections by the regulator found some online pharmacies have supplied high-risk medicines to patients without appropriate steps being taken by the pharmacy owner, prescriber, responsible pharmacist or other members of the team.

In response, the GPhC is taking enforcement and regulatory action against the owners of these registered pharmacies, as well as individual pharmacists involved in both the prescribing and supply of medicines where their conduct may have fallen short of professional standards.

Improvement notices and conditions on a pharmacy’s registration have been imposed; for example conditions restricting the supply of controlled drugs by the pharmacy.

The regulator said updated guidance on providing pharmacy services at a distance made clear that some categories of medicines are not suitable to be supplied online unless further safeguards have been put in place to make sure they are clinically appropriate for patients.

The chief executive of the GPhC, Duncan Rudkin, has this week written to the owners of online pharmacies and asked them to provide information on the actions they have taken to follow the new guidance and make sure patients access pharmacy services online safely.

Jasmine Shah, the NPA’s Head of Advice & Support Services, said: “We strongly support the safeguards introduced for online pharmacies by the pharmacy regulator in April and the proactive steps GPhC is taking to check compliance, especially around supply of high risk medicines.

“There were recently alarming reports in the national media about a rise in addiction to prescription medicines, and it is quite right that opiates and sedatives are among the medicines singled out for special attention by the GPhC.

“This is in the interests of patient safety, which must be the first concern of every pharmacist and every pharmacy owner.

“The GPhC points to the advantages of having a face to face consultation with the patient, which can reduce the risk of making an inappropriate supply. Face to face interactions between pharmacists and patients can make a big difference to the quality of care given.

“Online pharmacies are convenient for some people, but for this supply route to gain wide acceptance, the public will need to feel certain that their safety is assured.  Therefore we strongly support the action GPhC is taking. We urge all online pharmacies to put proper governance in place, assess risk in the context of the particular service model and for pharmacy owners and pharmacists to apply professional judgement at all times.”