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The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) today published updated guidance for online pharmacies.

The new guidance (found here) is aimed at pharmacy owners to help make sure that people can only obtain medicines from online pharmacies that are safe and clinically appropriate for them.

This comes following a GPhC-commissioned research which found that 25% of people say they are likely to use online pharmacies in the future, but 50% of those unlikely to do so have concerns about the safety of online pharmacies.

Chief Executive of the GPhC, Dunkan Rudkin, called this new guidance further safeguards to protect people as they “can be put at serious risk if they are able to obtain medicines that are not appropriate for them.”

“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,” he added.

Welcoming the new guidance, Royal Pharmaceutical Society President, Ash Soni, said: “We are particularly pleased to see that the requirement for additional safeguards for certain categories of prescription only medicines – which include antibiotics, medicines liable for abuse and medicines that require ongoing monitoring or management – have been strengthened in the guidance document. Patient safety in relation to medicines is central to any pharmaceutical service.”

The National Pharmacy Association supported the new safeguards but warned that it was “now incumbent on the regulator [GPhC] to enforce the guidance robustly in the interests of patient safety and levelling up standards such that all pharmacies can operate on a level playing field.”

Pharmacy Business got in touch with Charles Russell Speechlys for an insight into the new guidance. A partner at the London-based law firm, Noel Wardle, said  “a lot of the detail in the document is around managing risk, ensuring that the online activities are fully secure and ensuring that staff are appropriately trained to work in the distance selling context.”

“However, there are certain aspects which will require all online pharmacy websites to assess the fundamentals of how they operate, what they supply, who provides the service and how their websites are set up,” he added.

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