Web prescriptions can put patients' safety at risk

06 March 2017

People should be very cautious when buying medicines from the internet, a health regulator warns.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has inspected 11 online prescription services in the U.K., finding some "potentially presenting a significant risk to patients".

The watchdog also said that while some providers were well organised, others "cut corners" and were too quick to sell medicines without doing enough to check whether they were suitable, meaning that patients might be at risk of harm.

In a joint statement, four regulatory bodies - CQC, the General Medical Council, the General Pharmaceutical Council, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - have stated providers and healthcare professionals working for these companies that they must offer safe and efficient care.

"Technological advances have brought opportunities to deliver healthcare in new ways, including online primary medical services," the statement reads.

"We will continue to work closely together to share intelligence where we have concerns and take action where necessary to protect patients. We will ensure providers and clinicians are clear on their responsibilities to protect people who use their services and deliver safe, high quality care."

Read more: Beware of fake medicine

The CQC has now published a clear set of standards for online pharmacies, calling on them to verify that patients match their photo ID, such as through a Skype check, get an up-to-date medical history, ensure patients understand what medicines they are being given and seek permission to contact a patient's doctor.

Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice at the CQC, added that the watchdog will visit providers and close any putting patients at risk.

"Following our review of all online services registered with CQC, we will now visit each provider, working closely in partnership with the relevant regulators, and checking that providers are following the appropriate professional guidance. We will take action to cancel or suspend the registration of providers who are putting their patients at risk," he said.

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