Hello Everyone,

In this blog we’re going to be discussing the new and upcoming popularity of online chemists and prescription delivery services. The introduction of the electronic prescription service (EPS) was an exciting step forward for our community pharmacies, allowing scripts to be sent electronically from prescribers to a nominated pharmacy. This convenience has accelerated the up rise of online pharmacies, however, an increasing amount of local community pharmacies are also offering paid or free delivery services.  So, what does this mean for our patients and what are our responsibilities as healthcare professionals regarding online pharmaceuticals?

What advice should we give our patients?
Are there any safety concerns?

Firstly, it’s important patients can distinguish between a registered online pharmacy service and other online commercial sites. The GPhC offers a voluntary internet pharmacy logo scheme to help with this – refer to the ‘getting medicines safely online’ link below. Patients should also understand that POM medicines require a prescription and should not be brought online without one. It is also vital that the patient informs their GP of any medicines they take which are not prescribed or brought for themselves online.

E-Pharma(1)The rising issue of antibiotic resistance should also be considered here. As more and more prescribers are beginning to hold back on antibiotic prescribing where it may not be necessary, patients may start to look online as an alternative. As pharmacists we should ensure patients understand why antibiotics have not been prescribed and the danger of buying POM medicines online.

On the other hand, there has been some safety concerns regarding registered online pharmacies which are worth considering. For example, how safe are medicines in the post? And more importantly, does the use of an online pharmacy impact the relationship between the customer and the community pharmacist?

To summarise:

  • If your patient wants to use an online service, make sure they know the difference between a registered and unregistered pharmacy and how they can identify this
  • Highlight the need for a prescription with POM medicines and the danger of buying POM medicines online without one
  • Don’t forget to ask patients if they take any other medicines bought elsewhere and if they do, make sure they tell their GP too
  • And finally, make sure your patients know that they can come to you for advice on their medicines, even if they receive them using an online service

Learn more about getting medicines online safely: https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/pharmacists/Pages/internet-drugs.aspx

A document outlining the benefits and concerns regarding the online purchasing of pharmaceuticals: http://nuffieldbioethics.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Personalised-healthcare-Chapter-7-Online-purchasing-of-pharmaceuticals.pdf  

Thank you for taking your time to read this blog post and stay tuned for more as we upload each month!

APC Team



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