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GPhC warns seven online pharmacies over illegal COVID-19 tests

It is illegal to sell home test kits without a CE mark, the GPhC has said.
It is illegal to sell home test kits without a CE mark, the GPhC has said.

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has written to seven online pharmacies to request they remove illegal COVID-19 home testing kits from sale.

  • It is legal for pharmacies to sell tests where samples are subsequently analysed in a laboratory,
  • It is currently illegal to supply tests with rapid results for testing and diagnosing at home or in community pharmacies.

The GPhC told C+D last month (April 29) that it had written to the seven pharmacies to underline the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) guidance that it is “illegal to sell home test kits without a CE mark” . It also requestd that the tests were removed from sale, it said.

“We expect pharmacy owners to comply with the law and consider relevant guidance from appropriate bodies such as the MHRA, Public Health England (PHE) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society,” the GPhC added.

“MHRA advice is that there are currently no CE-marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products,” it explained.

In March, PHE advised against the use of coronavirus tests in community pharmacies and at home, citing that there was “no  published evidence” of  their efficacy.

However, some pharmacies are selling home sampling kits, which involve collecting a sample at home that is then processed by an accredited laboratory. Such tests are legal if they have a CE mark.

Last month (April 15), the National Crime Agency (NCA) said it had arrested a pharmacist from Croydon on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus testing kits.

In the same NCA statement, MHRA head of operations for enforcement Tariq Sarwar said the regulator was “committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.”

For more information about the different types of COVID-19 tests, read C+D’s feature on everything you need to know about selling coronavirus tests.

Have you seen a pharmacy selling COVID-19 home tests?

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

Everyone moaning as usual about the GPhC, yet never do anything about it. They'll do their CPD entry and pay their fee like they do every year. That's why they get away with it.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm assuming you're on the register, therefore you 'do their CPD entry and pay their fee like they do every year' so you're no different to anyone else.

What everyone moans about is that online pharmacies always seem to be more leniently treated than bricks and mortar. If I was selling something illegal, I'm fairly confident I would get more than just a letter from the GPhC. I rather think a few visits to The Ivory Towers would follow, along with a period of not being a pharmacist any more.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

I've never had to pay the fee because my employers have always done so, as with the RPS fee.

I need the registration as a signatory. I don't practice in a patient facing role anymore thankfully.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

So don't complain about those of us that do moaning about it. You obviously have had experience of the problems we have and I would expect you to be more sympathetic to those. Perhaps that's why you are an Industrial pharmacist not a community pharmacist any more. We need to have empathy.

And, just as an FYI, most pharmacy employers pay the GPhC fee for their employees.

Industry Pharmacist, Head/Senior Manager

No, I have no sympathy because each Pharmacist is looking after their own agenda. Perhaps you have not practiced long enough to understand the politics, which has led to massive fragmentation in the profession. So my original statement was implying to quit moaning and actually do something about it. Which means move sector, or lobby politically via a United union, as opposed to crying in your beer in a forum. Pharmacists moan but don't do anything about it - that is my point.

And No, I became an Industrial pharmacist because I wanted to actually use my degree and brain, rather than be in a dead end job, retire early, have self-worth and be appreciated. Perhaps that's why you're not in Industry, and you're stuck in community.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

30 years, been a superintendent, so yes I get it rather better than you do.

You know what? I can hold my head up knowing I have actually made a difference to real peoples lives. I don't need to brush up my own ego. I have been proud of being a community pharmacist, and if you think we don't use our brains in community then I'm afraid that your obviously mighty one is misguided.

I agree with you however that the sector is broken, pharmacists have NEVER pulled together (although I can see little seeds of that starting to happen now) and our representative bodies are pretty much impotent which is why I've decided to bite the bullet and get out. I wouldn't want to work in industry though - sounds much too pompous for me.

Your lack of sympathy does you no credit and shows why you are better in industry. Chemicals don't need sympathy.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Funny isn't it how often the words 'GPhC warning' and 'Online pharmacies' are in the same headline? Not saying that a lot of online pharmacies are shysters but........actually I am!

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Be careful with your generalisations. There are currently 1034 pharmacies in the MHRA's online medicines seller registry, many (I'd say most) of whom are also "bricks and mortar" pharmacies. Not saying that a lot of bricks and mortar pharmacies are shysters but..... actually you are!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

A significant number of bricks and mortar have also done some very dodgy things - have you forgotten the BBC (I think) exposing the OTC sale of some heavy duty POMs and CDs a couple of years ago?

None of this does either side of the profession any good at all, but, as you have said above, you clearly have a very low opinion of retail pharmacists anyway, no sympathy for what is happening to us right now so I can only assume you don't give a toss.


David Kent, Community pharmacist

Wy has the GPhC not named the pharmacies involved?

David Kent, Community pharmacist

I do not see where the person who disgarees with this post can do so.  Explanation please, why do you think these errant pharmacies should not be named - unless of course you are one of them!


Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Oh look - the same person read that post too!

The only reason I can think of is they are afraid of legal action against them because the legislation over Covid is so new it hasn't been tested in court yet. Either that or they want online pharmacies to prosper so a cover up is required?

David Kent, Community pharmacist

The GPhC is an uneccesary organisation that is and never was fit for purpose.  No adequate explanation of the reasons for the split of regulatory functions from the RPSGB was made prior to the split.  

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

To be fair, before the split all the same moans and groans were aimed at the RPS as are now aimed at the GPhC. Our regulators have just always been poor in comparison to others in the healthcare sector. I believe the reason for the split was that the RPS acted as both judge and jury (i.e. regulatory and representative) in any FtP cases and therefore the split was required along the lines of the BMA and the GMC so that we could get fair unbiased regulation and representation. Obviously that failed dismally, but that's not the point. The reasoning behind the split was sound, it just never worked, is all. 

David Kent, Community pharmacist

In as much as you agree the split has failed why do you, in the face of all the oposition at the time, think the split was good?



Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Please feel free to quote any passage in my post which implied I thought the split was 'good'

Chris Green, Hospital pharmacist

I don't think there was an option. The RPSGB as was, had a conflict of interest between representation and regulation and that had to change. 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Exactly. The problems arose later because the RPS became totally toothless and the GPhC became the tool of the multiple.

I'm fed up with so called "professionals" actively floating the law and getting off with a warning. Warnings should only be issued for minor infrigements e.g. during an inspection SOPs are not up to date or CD entries not being quite up to scratch - things that can be easily sorted and were not compromising patient safety.

People who make a conscious decision to participate in illegal actively should be dealt with much more harshly than a "letter".

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Have you ever driven at 71mph on the motorway? Were you arrested and banned from driving?

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Tiny bit different - a marginally heavy foot on the motorway (where let's face it, EVERYONE is speeding and it's probably safer to be going at the same rate as everyone else) is not going to affect other people as much as a faulty covid test which could lead to an infected person being given a false negative and that person then going on to infect lots of others. How would you feel if someone in your workplace was generously spreading the virus around after being given the green light by one of these tests?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Is it little wonder we find ourselves unregarded when individuals do this. I know there are those who will "do anything for a quick buck" but, unlike, say GPs who might decide to do something dodgy, in Pharmacy it is almost always involving the public, who jusy love to spread the bad news about crooked pharmacists via social media. I agree with Mr Downam - strike them off, so anyone else gets the message, or GPhC should be reviewed as not fit for purpose

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

My one concern against striking off is the employees of the pharmacy who would lose their jobs, other than that, yep, string the buggers up for the crows!

John Cleese, Production & Technical

Bring back hanging, I say! Make 'em swing!

David Kent, Community pharmacist

it distresses me that many phamracists are only interested in patients as profit centres and provide anything, at a cost of course, to achieve incomee.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Add 'to survive' at the end of your post and you'd be spot on.

The ones who do this sort of thing though are the ones driving the BMWs with blacked out windows - you know the sort. The likes of you and me wouldn't do anything like this because we know it's wrong. There are a lot of things about pharmacy that distress me as well as what you have said - the fact that the only way to make a decent amount of money from it being shady dealing being one of them. I'm afraid that, as I've said many times before, this 'profession' is broken and it's now time to leave it (once the economy is moving again - damn you, Covid-19) and look for something new.

Dave Downham, Manager

Warned? What about "fined" or "struck off"?

Industry Pharmacist, Director

The GPhC are a feckless bunch, they wouldn't do anything of the sort. A totally useless organisation unable to ensure patient safety by having proper standards. It is very worrying how over the years they've just sat back and watched pharmacy errode at the will of corporate companies looking after their own profits rather than patient care. Zero respect for the GPhC and utter disappointment at this news however, definitely not surprised. 

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Only too true. As I've said elsewhere, the GPhC is totally in thrall to the multiples, and now it seems to online as well.

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