The Care Quality Commission has taken action against four online pharmacies after concluding that their services were posing a risk patient safety.
Following a series of inspections, the CQC suspended the registration of Doctor Matt Ltd (www.theonlinesurgery.co.uk) after finding that some prescriptions were being issued to patients in just 17 seconds.
Frosts Pharmacy (www.oxfordonlinepharmacy.co.uk) was found to be prescribing large quantities of inhalers for asthma without checking if the patient’s condition was out of control or if a diagnosis had been confirmed, and was thus given warning notices from the regulator.
The CQC also restricted prescribing of opioid-based medicines by the White Pharmacy (www.whitepharmacy.co.uk), because it was handing out high volumes of prescriptions for these drugs with no system in place to confirm patients’ medical or prescribing histories.
Finally, i-GP Ltd (www.i-gp.uk) was issued requirement notices instructing it to make improvements in a number of areas, including around ensuring it has a robust system in place to verify the identity of its patients.
“Online companies, and the people working for them, have a duty to protect the people seeking their support. They must follow relevant guidance and best practice to make sure that they know who they are communicating with, how medicines fit in with their medical history, and that their GP is made aware of any prescribing decisions,” noted Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of General Practice at the Care Quality Commission.
“This might be a new way of working but the risks and responsibilities need to be understood and action taken in response. As the regulator of health and social care, we will continue to play our part in guaranteeing this.”
Just last month, the CQC - alongside the General Medical Council (GMC), the General Pharmaceutical Council, and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency - issued a warning to the public over the dangers of web pharmacies, after it emerged that patients were not always appropriately assessed or managed when purchasing medicines online.
The CQC said it will now continue to inspect providers of sites considered to pose the highest risk to patients and report publicly on its findings.