GPhC restricts dispensing in three online pharmacies over patient safety concerns

The pharmacy regulator has taken enforcement action against the online pharmacies Pronto Healthcare Ltd, White Pharmacy and Medix Pharmacy.

Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has placed conditions on the supply of medicines by three online pharmacies following patient safety concerns raised during its inspection process.

In enforcement action notices, the GPhC said Pronto Healthcare Ltd and White Pharmacy must stop dispensing controlled drugs from Schedule 1 to 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, while Medix Pharmacy has been instructed to stop dispensing entirely to overseas patients.

The action comes after the GPhC published ‘Guidance for registered pharmacies providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet’ in April 2019, which set out new expectations for online pharmacies.

Following publication of the guidance, Duncan Rudkin, chief executive at the GPhC, wrote to all online pharmacies on 17 September 2019 asking for a copy of their risk assessment of the services they provide online and a list of changes they have made to their online services as a result of the guidance by 16 October 2019.

The GPhC told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it had previously written to pharmacy owners who had requested the use of its voluntary internet pharmacy logo to ask if they were planning to make changes in light of the guidance, which it used to prioritise inspections. 

However, Rudkin said in the letter that the GPhC is “seeing serious patient safety concerns in some online pharmacies in relation to medicines that are liable to misuse, abuse or overuse, and where there is a risk of addiction”.

The GPhC clarified that it has issued the three pharmacies with enforcement actions — something that is done when there is a serious risk to patient safety.

Following an inspection on 15 May 2019, the GPhC found Medix Pharmacy in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, was not keeping “accurate or complete records about the supplies it makes of prescription-only medicines to patients overseas”, while “some of the supplies it makes do not comply with current UK law”.

As a result, the GPhC said Medix Pharmacy must stop dispensing to patients overseas until it has met three conditions, including managing risks “to protect the safety and wellbeing of patients”, complying with GPhC standards for online pharmacies and complying with UK law “with specific regard to record-keeping requirements for dispensed medicines”.

An inspection of Pronto Healthcare Ltd in Bolton on 16 May 2019, revealed that the pharmacy “does not have sufficient safeguards to make sure supplies of opiates and sleeping tablets are appropriate or that the medicines are not being abused”, resulting in conditions issued that prohibit the pharmacy from dispensing controlled drugs.

White Pharmacy in Alton, Hampshire, is also now unable to dispense controlled drugs following an inspection; however, the GPhC has yet to publish its full inspection report with its reasons for issuing the restriction.

A spokesperson for White Pharmacy told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it is working with the GPhC “to make sure that it follows the new guidelines outlined in their recent publication, ‘Guidance for registered pharmacies providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet’”.

The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached Medix Pharmacy and Pronto Healthcare Ltd for comment.

Last updated
Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, September 2019;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207086