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New guidance for online pharmacies to keep patients safe when accessing medicines online 

30 May 2019

In April we published strengthened 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. 

As part of this we introduced further safeguards for patients and the public. If you have any specific questions about the guidance, see our new frequently asked questions page.

Making sure medicines are clinically appropriate for patients

Online pharmacies will have to make sure that:

  • there are robust processes in place to carry out identity checks on people obtaining medicines
  • the pharmacy team can identify requests for medicines that are inappropriate, including by being able to identify multiple orders to the same address or orders using the same payment details
  • the pharmacy websites do not allow a patient to choose a prescription-only medicine and its quantity before there has been an appropriate consultation with a prescriber

Further safeguards for certain categories of prescription-only medicines

Further safeguards will have to be in place before supplying:

  • antimicrobials (antibiotics)
  • medicines liable to abuse, overuse or misuse, or where there is a risk of addiction and ongoing monitoring is important. For example, opiates, sedatives, laxatives, pregabalin and gabapentin
  • medicines that require ongoing monitoring or management. For example, those used to treat diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and mental health conditions
  • non-surgical cosmetic medicinal products, such as Botox

to make sure that they are clinically appropriate.

These safeguards include making sure the prescriber proactively shares all relevant information about the prescription with their GP after seeking the patient’s consent.

Transparency and patient choice

Pharmacy owners will have to supply more details about where the service and health professionals involved in prescribing and supplying the medicine are based and how they are regulated, so people have enough information to make an informed decision about using the service and can raise concerns about the service if they need to.

Regulatory oversight

Pharmacy owners working with prescribers or prescribing services operating outside the UK must take steps to successfully manage the additional risks that this may create, including assuring themselves that the prescriber is working within national prescribing guidelines for the UK.
 

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