Increased cooperation between countries is needed to ensure better regulation of online pharmacies, said authors of a new report – ‘Online pharmacy operations and distribution of medicines’, published by the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s (FIP) Community Pharmacy Section.
The report presents findings of a global survey of pharmacy organisations covering various aspects, such as type of medicines supplied by these pharmacies in different countries, how the authenticity of online pharmacies can be verified, and the usage of e-prescriptions and shared patient health records.
Of the 79 countries responding to the survey, 51 per cent acknowledged that no regulation of online pharmacies exists.
A quarter of the respondents reported cases of irresponsible self-medication by consumers who had purchased medicines through online pharmacies.
A lack of regulation creates “an avenue for illegal pharmacies and may impact the overall quality of medicines and services offered to consumers,” authors of the report said.
Lars-Åke Söderlund, immediate past president of FIP’s Community Pharmacy Section and co-editor of the report, said that the pandemic has increased preference for online services, including in the pharmacy sector.
Therefore, “It is important for health professionals to ensure consumers are informed and empowered to make good decisions related to the use of online pharmacies.”
He added that community pharmacists in most countries do not have access to digital health records, which acts as a barrier to achieve optimal patient care.
FIP CEO Dr Catherine Duggan said: “Consumers are increasingly wanting convenience, innovation and personalisation. This challenges pharmacists to provide a positive face-to-face experience for consumers utilising online channels.
“Nevertheless, digital transformation is critical and is an opportunity for pharmacies to further reinforce their place at the heart of their communities, with appropriate investment.”