The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is cracking down on internet pharmacy safety by making these businesses carry out identity checks on patients before they sell them medication

Internet businesses will only be able to operate if they can carry out ‘robust’ checks on those ordering medicine from them, the regulator said in measures published today (16 April).

This could include requesting a copy of a patient’s photographic identity, such as their passport or driving licence.

Online pharmacies will also have to identify ‘inappropriate’ orders, including multiple orders to the same address or payment details. They will also be unable to dispense prescription-only medicines unless the patient has had ‘an appropriate consultation with a prescriber’, the GPhC said.


‘Particular risks’


The full guidance can be found here.

The topic was consulted on last year, after the GPhC said it was considering a crack down on regulating online pharmacies following concerns about how easy it is to buy certain medicines.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said: ‘We support pharmacy services being provided in innovative ways, including online, as long as the services are safe and effective for people. But providing pharmacy services online carries particular risks which need to be successfully managed.

‘People can be put at serious risk if they are able to obtain medicines that are not appropriate for them. We are now putting in place this updated guidance with further safeguards to protect people.’


Must be ‘robustly’ enforced


The proposals were welcomed by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).

An NPA spokesman said: ‘We support the new safeguards introduced by the pharmacy regulator, including requirements for online pharmacies to carry out age identity checks and to track mailed packages to make sure they reach the right person.

‘It is now incumbent on the regulator 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.’