The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has confirmed it took enforcement action against 40 online pharmacies.

In its latest Council update, GPhC’s Head of Policy and Standards, Annette Ashley, said that

“From April 2019 to August 2021, we took enforcement action against over 40 pharmacies linked to their provision of online pharmacy services. Most of these pharmacies were working with online prescribing services that were prescribing medicines liable to abuse, misuse and overuse, based solely on an online questionnaire.

“Since March this year, we have imposed seven interim orders on the registration of Pharmacist Independent Prescribers (PIPs) and dispensers who have worked for or with online prescribing services, after identifying serious patient safety concerns with their practice. These pharmacists have received either interim suspensions or conditions on their registration, while our Fitness to Practise (FtP) investigations continue.”

She said that over 30% of the GPhC’s open Fitness to Practise cases relate to online pharmacy “which we believe is disproportionate to the sector of the market online services occupy.”

She said the main issue and most pressing concerns is the prescribing of medicines based on the completion of a patient-questionnaire as the sole mode of consultation.

This is of particular concern where it is part of a high volume, transactional supply of high-risk medicines.

Furthermore, she said upcoming work to address the issue include:

  • a special edition of Regulate which will bring together all the resources we have produced for pharmacy professionals, pharmacy owners, and patients and the public, regarding the provision of online pharmacy services
  • a new guidance note: ‘Providing safe and effective treatment: Selecting the appropriate mode of consultation when assessing a person’s needs’
  • developing a prioritised online programme of work.
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