The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)’s guidance – issued last month – includes the safeguard that a prescriber at an online pharmacy should contact the patient’s GP in advance of issuing a prescription for medicines “which are liable to abuse, overuse or misuse, or when there is a risk of addiction”.
But Dr Andrew Green, the British Medical Association’s (BMA) GP committee's clinical and prescribing lead, said it would be better to “blacklist” the supply of such drugs through this route instead.
“The suggestion from the GPhC that GPs authorise the provision of high-risk medication before issue is inappropriate,” he said. “It is not the function of GPs to police the prescribing of others.”
“Patients must be made aware of the risks of online prescribing at the point of sale and there needs to be a robust regulatory system in place to ensure safe practice,” Dr Green added.
The association “shares the concerns” of the GPhC that distance-prescribing carries safety risks and “has been working closely with regulators, including the General Medical Council, to push for tighter regulation”.
In response to Dr Green’s comments, the GPhC said: “We have strengthened our guidance for pharmacy owners to help make sure that people can only obtain medicines from online pharmacies that are safe and clinically appropriate for them.
“This guidance was put together following a public consultation and was informed by what we heard from patients and health professionals, including concerns raised with us by medical practitioners regarding the appropriateness of some medicines being supplied to vulnerable patients.”