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Online pharmacy chided by MHRA for advertising POM Ozempic for weight loss

The Care Pharmacy has amended its advertisements after an intervention from the medicines watchdog over its promotion of Ozempic, which is a prescription-only medicine (POM).

Online pharmacy The Care Pharmacy “amended [its] advertising” after being chastised by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for promoting POMs to the public, the watchdog announced last week (November 10).

The online pharmacy was included in a list of three companies that were investigated by the MHRA following complaints about advertising “medicinal treatment services for weight loss”.

The MHRA told C+D on Friday (November 10) that its investigation into The Care Pharmacy took place after it received one complaint that the pharmacy was promoting the POM Ozempic to the public “outside its licensed indication” via its website, which it “upheld”.

The MHRA said that it “advised the company that images of, or information about, medicines that are not licensed for weight loss should not be presented as such on their webpages”.

It also said that it “reminded” the online pharmacy that “the suitability of a particular product as part of a weight-management service” should be “based on a consultation”.

“Once contacted”, The Care Pharmacy “voluntarily agreed to ensure that [its] advertisements to the public going forward comply with MHRA requirements”, the watchdog added.

C+D approached The Care Pharmacy for comment.


GPhC: Homepages “should not reference” POMs


A spokesperson for the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) also told C+D on Friday that its own guidance is “clear” that pharmacies must “follow the MHRA’s guidance on the advertising and promotion of medicines” in order to meet GPhC standards.

MHRA guidance says that “website content should not promote POMs to the public” and pharmacies’ homepages “should not include any reference to named POMs, including price information”, it stressed.

It added that “special offers”, “inappropriate wording such as ‘start order’, ‘express checkout’ or ‘add to cart’” and badges like “‘Buy Now’, ‘Buy XXX’, ‘Add to Basket’” that encourage the purchase of POMs should all be avoided.

The spokesperson said that concerns about website advertising should be directed to “the MHRA as it is a matter that they regulate.”


Stock chaos 


This summer, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) and the MHRA included semaglutide, the generic name for Ozempic and Wegovy, on the list of medications that wholesalers are prevented from exporting or hoarding.

Since then, however, C+D revealed last month that pharmacy contractors were dealing with “disgraceful” Wegovy purchasing quotas from major wholesaler Alliance, while an online pharmacy had been able to purchase at least 10 times more stock.

At the time, Alliance refused to provide C+D with any clarification about Wegovy ordering quotas or why there might be differences between the amount of stock pharmacies are able to purchase.

Responding to the claims, an Alliance spokesperson said in October that its “pharmacy customers should continue to order Wegovy in the usual way”, adding that the company’s customer service team “is available to support any customer queries”.

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