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MHRA expresses concerns over drugs sold online

Are community pharmacies breaching legislation covering the online sale and supply of medicines in the UK? The MHRA and NPA have met to discuss their concerns.

The Medicines Healthcare products and Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has met with the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) to discuss concerns that community pharmacies are breaching legislation covering the online sale and supply of medicines in the UK.

The law requires sellers of medicines online to apply for a European-wide common clickable logo, managed by the MHRA, which must be displayed on every page of the website that offers to supply medicines to the public at a distance. Customers can click on the logo to check if it is authorised to sell medicines. This applies to all medicines, not just prescription-only (POM) or pharmacy (P) medicines. How the logo works is explained in the MHRA’s guidance, ‘Selling human medicines online (distance selling) to the public’

If medicines are sold to a customer in another European Economic Area (EEA) member state, the medicine must have a marketing authorisation in that country and the medicine must be the version that is authorised in the destination country.

The MHRA’s concerns stem from reports from sister agencies in other EEA countries that “a number of pharmacies” are supplying UK products outside of the UK, and that some are failing to display the required logo as directed. The concerns have also been triggered by investigations into a small number of deaths in recent months involving individuals in the UK who had bought POMs online.

“There are some interesting issues that are being raised around buying healthcare online,” said Lynda Scammell, senior policy advisor at the MHRA.

“In the UK, prescription only medicines can be offered online, provided all legal requirements are met – such as requiring a valid prescription and dispensing through a registered pharmacy.

“We urge the public to check for the Distance Selling Logo, which connects to a list of nationally registered suppliers, when considering purchasing medicines online,” she said.

Scammell added that buying healthcare and medicines online was raising challenges for regulators and the MHRA was working closely with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the General Medical Council (GMC) to make sure acceptable standards of patient care were met.

Pharmacies that are found to be operating illegally may have their registration suspended, or removed from the MHRA list of UK registered online retail sellers, or have their registration entry varied by the MHRA.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203603

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