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Calls for extra online safeguards to be extended to more medicines

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 healthcare 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 at

The NPA is always eager to hear the views of its members on policy matters. Please email or call Helga Mangion, NPA Policy Manager on 01727 858687 with comments on this consultation or anything else.

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