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Community pharmacists hit out at online pharmacy Facebook ads


By Isabel Shaw

17 Sep 2020

Pharmacy professionals have criticised Facebook adverts published by two online pharmacies, claiming they are ‘actively encouraging patients not to visit local community pharmacies’.

An advert created by Pharmacy2U, the UK’s leading NHS-approved online pharmacy, encourages patients to ‘reduce their risk’ of Covid-19 and ‘help the NHS’ by ordering prescriptions online through the Pharmacy2U service, and not to make ‘unnecessary journeys’.

According to the Facebook ad library, the advert, which is still currently running, started appearing on people’s feeds on 3 September.

Commenting on the Pharmacy2U advert, a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) spokesperson said: ‘Our members are rightly annoyed by these claims from Pharmacy2U.

‘It is important that people make their choice of where to obtain prescription medicines based on fair and accurate information.’

The spokesperson added that the NPA has previously successfully brought a case against Pharmacy2U to the Advertising Standards Authority, and the body will ‘again be challenging these statements by Pharmacy2U’.

Pharmacy2U told the Pharmacist they were unable to provide a comment.

Pharmacy2U Facebook advert

‘Misleading and inappropriate’

Pharmacy professionals have also criticised an advert posted by Echo Pharmacy, the online repeat prescription service owned by LloydsPharmacy, which told users ‘help protect the NHS’ and ‘get your medicines delivered’. It was published with the strapline: ‘If you don’t need to speak to a pharmacist in-person then use Echo’.

The ad has since been taken down by Echo, but ran for 4 days between the 26 August and 30 August 2020, according to Facebook.

Echo Pharmacy Facebook advert

Jeremy Meader, managing director at Numark, said on LinkedIn last week that ‘the latest Echo Facebook ad feels like a kick in the teeth for local community pharmacy’.

He added that the advert appears to be ‘actively encouraging patients not to visit local community pharmacies’.

‘At a time when we are campaigning so hard for more recognition and critically sustainable long term funding for the community pharmacy sector I can only imagine how poorly the Echo ad will land with independent pharmacies who care passionately about their local communities,’ he said.

Other pharmacists commenting on Mr Meader’s LinkedIn post agreed the advert ‘really was a kick in the teeth’ and described it as ‘worrying’ and ‘highly misleading and inappropriate’.

A spokesperson for Echo said: ‘Echo is a LloydsPharmacy service and part of the McKesson Group. Through our parent company we were advised that one of our advertisements was misconstrued and we have taken action to rectify this issue by removing it.

‘We value patient choice and also the importance of local community pharmacy. Echo is passionate about providing patients and customers a fully rounded pharmacy service whether that is online or in the local community.’

‘Support your local pharmacy’

Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said: ‘Strenuous steps have been taken across the community pharmacy network to protect both pharmacy teams and the public. By following the instructions of pharmacy staff, wearing face coverings and maintaining social distancing the public can continue to safely receive their medicines and access expert advice at their community pharmacy.’

She added: ‘We know that community pharmacies are highly valued and play an important role in communities across the country. At this economically challenging time for all businesses, we encourage the public to continue to make use and support their local community pharmacy’.

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