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Some pharmacists working for online dispensers are “out of their depth,” the GPhC has warned.

Addressing an online conference for members of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIM) today, GPhC chief Duncan Rudkin spoke about the regulator’s work to crack down on rogue online pharmacies.

He welcomed the fact that many online pharmacies have moved away from using EEA-based medical prescribers – something he said the GPhC “took steps to challenge” – towards using UK-registered pharmacists with an independent prescribing qualification.

However, he said some of these pharmacists are “clearly out of their depth and not understanding the prescribing process they were involved in”.  

He said that since April 2019 the GPhC has taken enforcement action against 48 pharmacies relating to the provision of online pharmacy services, with most cases involving medicines that are liable to misuse or abuse.

There are particular concerns around pharmacies using online patient questionnaires to decide whether a medicine requested by a patient is appropriate, he said.

A further 40 pharmacies have had conditions imposed on their licence, while 11 have been served with omprovement notices, he said, adding that the in a number of cases the GPhC “will be seeking to disqualify” people from owning pharmacies in the future, which he described as “a new line of attack”. Four disqualification hearings are currently pending.

There have also been some fitness to practise cases involving individual pharmacists, with four pharmacy professionals placed under interim orders to date.

Codeine linctus issues 'worse in 100 hour pharmacies'

Commenting on the regulator’s enforcement action against pharmacies dispensing excessive amounts of codeine linctus, Mr Rudkin said this was especially prevalent in extended hour pharmacies where staff may change over frequently during the course of the day or week.

He spoke of businesses “not adequately keeping on top of the whole picture and relying too much on pharmacists’ memory and ability to intervene”.

“Sometimes with the best of intentions pharmacies were making excessive supplies without really knowing that themselves,” he said, explaining that in many cases pharamcies were lacking SOPs and medicines sale protocols “to spot and address risk indicators”.

He urged pharmacy teams to be aware that individuals requesting codeine linctus “can be very organised, believable, sometimes quite aggressive”.

The GPhC announced this July that over the past 12 months it had taken enforcement action against 36 pharmacies and one individual relating to the supply of codeine linctus. 




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