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Online pharmacy backs BMA call for high-risk drug supply 'blacklist'

Frosts Pharmacy contractor Stuart Gale and Marston branch manager Noha El-Gamal

An online pharmacy owner has come out in support of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) call to “blacklist” the supply of high-risk drugs via internet pharmacies.

The BMA’s GP committee’s clinical and prescribing lead, Dr Andrew Green, called for the blacklist in response to General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) guidance that prescribers at online pharmacies should contact a patient’s GP before issuing prescriptions for medicines “liable to abuse…or when there is a risk of addiction”.

Stuart Gale, owner of the Frosts Pharmacy group and Oxford Online Pharmacy, agreed it would be better to blacklist the supply of these drugs online, “rather than adding to the already overburdened GP’s workload”.

“There are lots of good online pharmacies who are working very hard to improve standards of healthcare delivered online and to meet all the requirements of the GPhC and Care Quality Commission (CQC),” he said.

“Conversely, there are other businesses risking their patients’ health for a quick profit,” he added. “This is incredibly damaging for the digital health sector.”

“So many pharmacies are still pushing medication such as opiates and sleeping tablets,” Mr Gale continued. “Indeed, as a business we receive regular emails from other online pharmacies promoting ‘best sellers’ such as codeine linctus, which is highly addictive and absolutely open to abuse.”

Online pharmacies are “not a like-for-like replacement” for bricks-and-mortar branches, he stressed. “Some things need to be handled face-to-face.”

The GPhC operates a voluntary logo scheme for online pharmacies to reassure patients of their legitimacy, which Mr Gale described as a “great start”. “But do consumers really understand what these logos mean?” he asked.

“Due to the propensity for abuse, opiates and sleeping tablets should not be prescribed online and sites caught actively promoting medication such as codeine linctus should be subject to the harshest restrictions.”

Frosts Pharmacy’s Marston branch was crowned GP Partnership of the Year at the C+D Awards 2018. Read about their winning entry, and buy your tickets for the 2019 Awards.

8 Comments
Question: 
Do you agree with blacklisting the supply of high-risk drugs by online pharmacies?

Stuart Gale, Community pharmacist

I would like to respond to a few of the comments. Firstly we are CQC registered and were inspected last week but the company has changed. We are proud to be fully compliant with the the CQC standards.  Secondly our premises is not open to the public this is a archive image used by C+D. 

The main issue here is that we believe that online pharmacy and doctor services should not be promoting the sale of high strength codeine or sleeping tablets online. It is not appropriate. I got an e mail advertising codeine linctus from one pharmacy. Who would promote that in their shop let alone in an email campaign. It's not right. 

Stuart Gale - Owner Frosts Pharmacy and Oxford Online Pharmacy

James Waldron, Editorial

Perhaps the confusion could have been prevented on our side Stuart. I thought it was clear from the text in the third paragraph that you are owner of both Frosts and Oxford Online, but we could have also explained this in the picture caption.

In any case, they were some great comments, which made for a thought-provoking read.

Kind regards,

James Waldron, C+D Editor

Darren Powell, Community pharmacist

The issue seems to be the prescribing practice of "prescribers" linked to these organisations. Supply in terms of "dispensing" from such organisations shouldn't be an issue, it's the procurement of the legal prescription.

Obviously there appears to be a conflict between diagnosis and supply that has often been quoted as an issue for dispensing practices. The two need some degree of separation and oversight to ensure safe patient care

s8chy P, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

These online pharmacies, which were once regulated by CQC and found to be lacking in patient safety, I believe are now no longer regulated by CQC. Their profiles are archived. They are avoiding CQC regulation, in order to get away with poor prescribing practices.
It's confusing to go onto Oxford online pharmacy website to see a CQC badge, but then to click it and be taken to an archived CQC page. If I am correct, this means it is NOT CQC regulated and the badge is misleading. I find many of these online pharmacies are profiteering, and frosts seem to be no different.

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/releases/cqc-continues-take-action-against-websites-selling-prescription-medicines

Perhaps the Ed could explain if there is any connection between Stuart Gale, owner of the Frosts Pharmacy group and Oxford Online Pharmacy to the CQC actions taken against Frosts Pharmacy Ltd (www.oxfordonlinepharmacy.co.uk)?

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

If it is an online pharmacy then why are the premises pictured open to the public?

Peter Smith, Student

With pharmacists as thick as "Dodo", is it any wonder that the profession has flushed itself down the toilet?

Dodo pharmacist, Community pharmacist

The regulations governing distance selling pharmacies (DSP’s) explicitly state that they can not provide any services to persons on the premises . All services have to be provided at a distance- hence the name Distance Selling Pharmacy. Therefore the premises pictured should not be open to the public if it is a DSP. 

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