The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has taken action six times in fitness to practise cases related to online pharmacies since last August, it has revealed to C+D.

According to the report, the GPhC has suspended two registrants, twice issued warnings and once issued advice in cases involving pharmacists working for online providers since August 2022.

In addition, one interim order has been issued since August, which was “linked to concerns around high-risk online prescribing practices using a questionnaire-based prescribing model,” the GPhC said.

And it confirmed that there are currently 261 open cases linked to businesses it has “classed as online pharmacies”. Of the pharmacies linked to open cases, 102 – or 39% – are “unique”, it clarified.

The regulator told C+D that it “cannot comment on the specifics of cases currently under investigation”, although it was able to reveal the “regulatory concerns” that most often lead to online pharmacies or online prescribing being investigated.

These include:

  • “Poor governance and oversight of prescribing high-risk medications open to abuse
  • Prescribing transactionally using questionnaire-based models only, with little or no verification with patients’ GPs or without access to patients’ medical records
  • Prescribing medication repeatedly with no monitoring or review
  • Prescribing outside scope of practice
  • Prescribing medication off licence without clear evidence of the skills or expertise to undertake this
  • Prescribing transactionally with apparent financial incentive
  • Dispensing against prescriptions issued using an online questionnaire based prescribing model without due diligence of the prescribing model being used or the skills or competence of those prescribing.”

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