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GPhC takes action against 5 more pharmacists working for online providers

Interim orders were imposed on the registration of five pharmacists working for online providers in June and July, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has revealed.

Since March, seven interim orders have been issued by the GPhC against pharmacists working for online providers, a spokesperson confirmed to C+D today (August 16).  

Each of the pharmacists issued with interim notices – either interim suspensions or conditions on their registration – “were working as pharmacist independent prescribers for online services or were dispensing medicines prescribed online”, it said.

But the GPhC could take “further action” against other pharmacists who are working for online services as there are a “number of ongoing investigations” into their practice.

What is an interim order?

The GPhC can apply interim orders against a registrant at any stage of the fitness-to-practise process in situations where their behaviour, health or practice “presents a serious, continuing, immediate and real risk either to themselves or the public”.

They can include conditions being applied to a pharmacy professional’s registration – for example, only being able to practise under supervision – for a certain length of time or temporarily suspending a pharmacy professional’s registration.

The conditions imposed under an interim order do not mean the regulator has made a final decision about a registrant’s fitness to practise.

In an email to pharmacists today, the regulator drew attention to the “serious patient safety concerns” it has over some online pharmacies and online prescribing services.

Over three in 10 of open fitness-to-practise cases relate to online pharmacy, it noted.

Reasons for issuing interim orders included instances where medicines were being prescribed using only an online questionnaire, “with no direct interaction between the prescriber and either the patient or their GP”, and episodes where high-risk medicines were prescribed “without adequate safeguards”, the GPhC wrote.


Read more: GPhC: FtP cases ‘ongoing’ after inquest into death by codeine abuse

 

It urged all pharmacists to ensure the organisation they are working for is “appropriately regulated in the UK and/or is meeting the relevant UK regulatory standards for that service, including our standards for registered pharmacies if it is a registered pharmacy”.

 

Do not work with companies that evade UK regulations

 

In another email to pharmacy owners today, the GPhC urged them not to work with online providers who “try to circumvent” UK regulations in place to “ensure patient safety”.

Contractors should ensure they are “successfully” managing any potential risk that could arise from working with prescribers or services that are not overseen by UK regulators, it added.

Both pharmacy owners and superintendents of online pharmacies must ensure the delivery of “safe and effective pharmacy services”, the GPhC said.

 

Read more: ‘Deeply concerning’: safety group slams non-UK regulated access to drugs online

 

GPhC director of insight, intelligence and inspection Claire Bryce-Smith revealed in May that the regulator was looking into 187 cases, which were linked to 83 online pharmacies and involved 84 registrants.

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