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PJ Online | Law and ethics | Dispensing overseas prescriptions

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 273 No 7306 p32
3 July 2004


Society summary

 Law and Ethics Bulletin

An occasional feature, prepared in the Royal Pharmaceutical Society?s Professional Standards Directorate, to highlight problems and inquiries currently being handled

Law and Ethics Bulletin, 2001 to present
See also Good Practice Points, 2003 to present


Dispensing overseas prescriptions

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s fitness to practise and legal affairs directorate has received calls from pharmacists who have been approached by American or Canadian counterparts to dispense prescriptions written by doctors registered in the US. Pharmacists are reminded that such prescriptions are not valid in the UK and any supplies of prescription-only medicines to patients against prescriptions signed by US registered doctors would be unlawful.

Even if such prescriptions were to be signed by UK registered doctors, pharmacists should note that guidance from the General Medical Council states that doctors must prescribe drugs or treatment (including repeat prescriptions) only where they have adequate knowledge of a patient’s health and medical needs. Given this, the prescriber would need to be consulted to ascertain his or her reasons for prescribing for a patient abroad. Pharmacists would need to be satisfied of the professional appropriateness of dispensing such a prescription, if the doctor has not performed a clinical assessment of the patient or has adequate knowledge of their medical history.

Should a pharmacist supply against a valid prescription for a patient abroad, consideration would need to be given to ensuring that the patient receives his or her medication safely and promptly and is adequately counselled on its appropriate use.

Service Specification 8 of the Code of Ethics must be complied with whenever dispensed medicines are not to be handed directly to the patient or the patient’s representative. Pharmacists are advised to consult the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in relation to export requirements, and patients should contact the embassy of the country into which the medicines are to be sent for any import requirements. Consideration should also be given to labelling and packaging requirements. Information may be obtained from carriers experienced in the export of medicines and from HM Customs and Excise.

Persons lawfully conducting a retail pharmacy business may undertake wholesaling activity without the need for a wholesale dealer’s licence, provided that the sale constitutes no more than an inconsiderable part of the business. Although this has not been subject to judicial interpretation, it is believed that a pharmacy will fall within this exemption if its wholesaling activity accounts for no more than 5 per cent of its total medicines trade.

Assuming that the appropriate enquiries have been made of the MHRA with respect to wholesale dealer’s licence requirements, pharmacists can export to hospitals, clinics, other wholesale businesses, doctors resident abroad (provided that the doctor supplies his patients and does not order the medicines for his own use) and pharmacies (provided that the medicines are then supplied to a patient).

The fitness to practise and legal affairs directorate has produced a fact sheet giving guidance on exporting medicines. “The export of medicines” (Fact Sheet 4) can be accessed on the Society’s website (PDF 110K).

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©The Pharmaceutical Journal

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20012283

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