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Online Pharmacies - What You Need to Know

on Thursday, 20 June 2019.

The General Pharmaceutical Council has provided strengthened guidance for pharmacy owners when supplying medicines online.

According to YouGov, 25% say they are likely to use online pharmacies in the future, but 50% of those who are unlikely cite safety concerns.

Key Changes to GPhC Guidance

The pharmacy regulator has responded by introducing the following key changes:

  • Online pharmacies will need to have robust processes to carry out identity checks on people obtaining medicines
  • The online pharmacies will need to identify inappropriate medicine requests, for example multiple orders to the same address or orders using the same payment details
  • Online pharmacies must also not allow patients to choose prescription-only medicines without an appropriate consultation with a prescriber
  • There will also be further safeguards for the following prescription-only medicines:

- 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 and laxatives

- Medicines needing ongoing monitoring or management, such as those treating diabetes, asthma, epilepsy and mental health conditions

- Non-surgical cosmetic medicinal products, such as botox

  • Transparency and patient choice – pharmacy owners must 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 tot
  • 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 GPhC, said: "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."

How to Tell If the Pharmacy Is Legitimate

The GPhC also offered the following advice to patients before using online pharmacies:

  • Ensure the online pharmacy is registered with the GPhC and has the green cross logo on it. The logo should click through to the GPhC register.
  • Visit pharmacyregulation.org/registers/pharmacy to check that the pharmacy is on the online register.
  • Expect to be asked questions about health and identity before being able to buy a medicine.
  • Avoid websites which offer to supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription.


There is the potential for so much more to be done online in the supply of medicines, but the regulator needs to ensure that patients are kept safe and have trust in the system. These developments are welcome steps.

Do you have any thoughts on the online supply of medicines? Please share your thoughts with Paul Gershlick in our Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences team on 01923 919 320, or complete the form below.


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