Online pharmacy Clear Chemist – which is based in Aintree, Merseyside and is owned by RB Healthcare Ltd – announced earlier this month (October 9) that it had decided to stop fulfilling hormone prescriptions it received from digital transgender clinic GenderGP, owned by Hong-Kong-based company Harland International.
The pharmacy said at the time that its decision, which it took “with a heavy heart”, had not been enforced by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), which was “looking into concerns raised about Clear Chemist as a matter of urgency” in the wake of a media backlash.
In a statement published yesterday (October 28), GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin said the regulator had “not asked the pharmacy to stop supplying medicines to patients undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria”.
However, following an “intelligence-led inspection” on October 5, the GPhC has issued an improvement notice to Clear Chemist, asking the pharmacy to “rectify failures” that its inspectors identified earlier this month.
Standards not met
The GPhC inspectors found “serious system-wide failures in the governance and management of risk at the pharmacy”, the GPhC said.
“The inspectors took into account the volume and type of medicines supplied, the age range and potential vulnerability of the patients, and the additional risks of working with prescribers based in the EEA and working outside UK regulatory oversight,” the GPhC wrote in the enforcement notice, which has been effective since last week (October 21).
The regulator said the pharmacy should put in place a comprehensive risk assessment for the services it provides “at a distance” and “update [their] safeguarding policy and procedures”. The date for compliance set by the GPhC is November 18.
“Factual inaccuracies and erroneous assumptions”
Clear Chemist told C+D yesterday that it disputes the GPhC notice and that it is “increasingly concerned that it contains a number of factual inaccuracies and erroneous assumptions”.
“We have written to the GPhC providing examples of these inaccuracies and evidence supporting our position in that standards are being met,” it added.
Clear Chemist said the GPhC was aware of the services the pharmacy used to offer to some of its patients and that its collaboration with transgender clinic GenderGP was known to the regulator through a previous inspection.
The pharmacy said that it was found to meet “all the necessary standards” at that inspection.
The regulator confirmed to C+D that ClearChemist met the standards for registered when it was inspected in March 2019.
“We have made the GPhC aware we are taking legal advice on our current position as the improvement notice is subject to appeal,” Clear Chemist said.
The Times and the BBC revealed earlier this month (October 6) that parents of transgender children can obtain puberty blockers and sex hormones on prescription from GenderGP. Until October 9, parents could place orders for these medicines with Clear Chemist.
The Times article suggested that the service offered by the two providers allowed people to circumvent some safeguards that are in place to protect children who receive the medicines through NHS routes.