Public health inspectors are investigating the recently launched English-language version of a Netherlands-based website selling tapering kits to patients, which help to wean them off antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs.
The Dutch Health Care Inspectorate — the government agency responsible for the safety of its public health system — confirmed that it is looking at whether the website is legal and whether it complies with the statutory requirements of its medicines supply chain.
The Inspectorate has also confirmed that it is in contact with the UK’s medicines healthcare watchdog — the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) — which has raised its own concerns about the site.
Details of the investigation came to light just weeks after the website was launched in July 2017.
The site is an English-language version of an established Dutch site that has been developed in collaboration with Paul Harder, a pharmacist from the Regenboog Apotheek, the Cinderella Therapeutics Foundation and the user research centre at the department of psychiatry and psychology at Maastricht University, all of which are based in the Netherlands.
The MHRA has expressed concern about the English-language version but has no statutory jurisdiction over it because it is hosted in the Netherlands.
The MHRA is worried that UK patients might be able to use the site to buy a kit made up of prescription-only medicines from the website, going outside the usual UK drug supply chain. The MHRA said that the strips could be purchased without the need for a UK prescription.
Those behind the site, however, have argued that patients have to fill in an order form signed by their GP with their professional registration details, which then acts as a prescription.
Soon after its launch, the academic involved in the site — Peter Groot, from the University of Maastricht — revealed that the site had already received “questions and requests” from the UK, Romania, Denmark, Australia and the United States.
He said the response illustrated that the website was helping to address an unmet patient need.
“All things considered, these first reactions are encouraging for us,” he told The Pharmaceutical Journal last month. “They confirm what we have always thought: that we have been able to develop a solution to an important worldwide problem that people have long been searching for.”