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.”