The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) said it had received 1,985 fitness to practise concerns related to online pharmacies since April 2019.
C+D reported that the GPhC released the data in response to an investigation published by the BBC that found 20 online pharmacies selling prescription-only medicine (POM) drugs “without checks”.
Of those 20 online pharmacies, the broadcaster discovered that nine sold anti-anxiety drugs, nine sold painkillers and fourteen sold sleeping medication – and it said it was able to obtain a “potentially fatal dose of the anti-anxiety medicine”.
General Pharmaceutical Council Chief Executive, Duncan Rudkin, said:
“The BBC’s undercover investigation raises very serious concerns. We have asked the BBC to provide further information so we can urgently look into these concerns and take action to protect patients and the public.
“We were very sorry to hear of the death of Katie Corrigan and wish to pass on our sincere condolences to Ms Corrigan’s family.
“Although the Regulation 28 report and recommendations following Ms Corrigan’s death were not directly addressed to the General Pharmaceutical Council, we have reviewed these to identify any action that we can take as the independent regulator for pharmacy in Great Britain.
“Increasingly people are choosing to access healthcare services online. There can be significant benefits for patients using online services to get medicines and treatment but there are also significant risks that need to be managed to protect patient safety.
“As the regulator for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in Great Britain, we are committed to making sure people receive safe and effective pharmacy care and have trust in pharmacy. We do this by setting standards for pharmacy professionals and registered pharmacies, and providing guidance to support the people and pharmacies we register to meet those standards.
“Our guidance for registered pharmacies providing services at a distance, including on the internet states clearly that selling and supplying medicines at a distance brings different risks which need to be appropriately managed to protect patient safety. Medicines are not ordinary items of commerce and must not be treated as such.
“We expect pharmacy owners to carry out a risk assessment to identify which medicines are appropriate for supplying at a distance; identify requests for medicines that are inappropriate, too
large or too frequent; and make sure that their staff are able to check the identity of patients and the safety and appropriateness of medicine supply for every patient.
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