Association of Pharmacy
Technicians UK (APTUK)
The Professional Leadership Body for Pharmacy Technicians

Updated Guidance for Pharmacy Owners Providing Services Online

On 16th April 2019, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) published updated guidance for pharmacy owners providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet, to help make sure people can obtain medicines safely online.   The update follows a consultation which sought views on strengthening the guidance and proposals to do so received strong support overall from more than 800 individuals and organisations.

The updated guidance introduces further safeguards in the following key areas: 

  • Making sure medicines are clinically appropriate for patients – online pharmacies will have to make sure:
    • 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 the following categories of medicines to make sure that they are clinically appropriate:
    • 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

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.

 Duncan Rudkin, Chief Executive of the General Pharmaceutical Council said:

“We support pharmacy services being provided in innovative ways, including online, as long as the services are safe and effective for people. But providing pharmacy services online carries particular risks which need to be successfully managed."

“People can be put at serious risk if they are able to obtain medicines that are not appropriate for them. We are now putting in place this updated guidance with further safeguards to protect people."

“I would strongly urge patients and the public wanting to obtain medicines online to only use online pharmacies registered with us, to protect their health. These pharmacies have to meet our standards and follow this guidance, so they provide safe and effective services, and we will be inspecting pharmacies to make sure this is the case."

“We are also continuing to work closely with other regulators involved in regulating online primary care services, governments and other stakeholders across Great Britain to improve the quality of care for patients online.”

The GPhC are writing to pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals to make them aware of the new guidance and to ask them to consider what actions they may need to take in response.

In response to the publication of the guidance, Liz Fidler, President of APTUK said: 

“With new technology and innovation, pharmacy is adapting and changing the way in which services are provided.  It is essential that any advancement is risk assessed and maintains or enhances safe, effective and person-centred care.   APTUK welcomes the updated guidance which strengthens the advice to pharmacy professionals providing services at a distance.  Everyone in the pharmacy team, including pharmacy technicians, should understand the guidance and be aware of their responsibilities to follow it.  APTUK encourages patients and the public to keep safe when using online pharmacies and promotes to service users to only use those pharmacies registered with the GPhC.”

For further information and to view the Guidance, please click on the link below:

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