GPhC issue warning about online prescribing services

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) have issued a written reminder to pharmacy owners, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians that they need to make sure they meet the GPhC standards and follow guidance for providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet, whenever they provide online pharmacy services.

The GPhC have said that their inspectors are continuing to identify serious patient safety concerns relating to registered pharmacies dispensing of prescription-only medicines from prescribers based in the EEA working alone or for third-party online prescribing service using online questionnaire-only based models. 

Enforcement action has been taken by the GPhC against over 40 pharmacies linked to their provision of online pharmacy services. The GPhC have said that the majority of these pharmacies were working with online prescribing services that were prescribing medicines which are liable to abuse, misuse and overuse to people, on the basis of an online questionnaire. The pharmacists involved have also been referred for Fitness to Practise investigations.

In a letter to pharmacy organisations the GPhC Director of Insight, Intelligence and Inspection Claire Bryce said:

“We are writing to ask you to share a message with your members and networks about patient safety concerns relating to pharmacies dispensing medicines prescribed by EEA prescribers working alone or for online prescribing services.

“We are doing this as part of our more anticipatory, proportionate and tailored approach to regulation, so you are alerted to the issues we have found and can play an important role in helping drive improvements in the quality of pharmacy services.

“We are continuing to identify serious patient safety concerns relating to registered pharmacies dispensing prescription-only medicines from prescribers based in the EEA working alone or for third- party online prescribing services.

“Since April 2019, we have taken enforcement action against over 40 pharmacies linked to their provision of online pharmacy services. The majority of these pharmacies were working with online prescribing services that were prescribing medicines that are liable to abuse, misuse and overuse to people, on the basis of an online questionnaire.

“Our inspections found that our standards were not being met and our guidance on providing pharmacy services at a distance was not being followed. This meant the dispensing pharmacies did not adequately safeguard vulnerable people who may be trying to obtain medicines that are not clinically appropriate for them. This puts patients at risk of serious harm or death.

“We have taken swift and robust enforcement action against these pharmacies and the pharmacists involved have been referred for a Fitness to Practise investigation. We are continuing to act quickly on the intelligence we receive relating to online pharmacy services and will take further action where needed to protect patients.

“Pharmacy owners, superintendent pharmacists and pharmacists must make sure that they are meeting our standards and following our guidance on providing pharmacy services at a distance, including on the internet if they are involved in any online pharmacy services.

“We recognise that many of your members will be already doing so, but there is a significant minority of pharmacies and pharmacy professionals who are not meeting our standards and following our guidance at all times. These pharmacies and pharmacy professionals could face enforcement actions and sanctions against their registration.

“It is important to emphasise that it is not enough to meet legal requirements only relating to EEA prescriptions. Pharmacy professionals are responsible for ensuring all medicines they supply are clinically appropriate for patients.

“Please ask your members to review the guidance on providing pharmacy services at a distance now and ensure that the safeguards outlined in the guidance are in place, including particular safeguards that are necessary when working with a prescriber and/or prescribing service based outside the UK.”

The Pharmacist Defence Association (PDA) welcomes an announcement from the regulator about “Patient safety concerns relating to online prescribing services.”

Mark Pitt, Director of Defence Services at the PDA, says: 

“The PDA is seeing a significant uplift in members seeking support and legal representation regarding regulatory investigations into online prescribing pharmacies. Our employment legal team are also representing pharmacist whistle-blowers who are concerned about poor patient care, through swift and effective intervention to protect their legal position.”

Chickenpox vaccination training

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True or false historically the incidence of chickenpox has been seasonal, with peak transmission from March to May?
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How long does it usually take for the blisters to begin to scab over?
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True or false the incubation period before symptoms arise is between one and three weeks from the date of infection?
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True or false pregnant women are a category of person eligible for post-exposure prophylaxis?

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True or false the supply of VZIG is plentiful and it is therefore widely used?

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True or false neonates whose mothers develop chickenpox within 7 days before or after delivery are eligible for Human Varicella Zoster Immunoglobulin (VZIG)?

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True or false varicella vaccination is NOT routinely recommended as part of the UK childhood immunisation programme?

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How many varicella vaccines are there available in the UK?

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True or false Varivax® is licensed for vaccination against varicella in individuals of any age?

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True or false Varilrix® is licensed for immunisation against varicella in healthy subjects from the age of 9 months?

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True or false individuals should receive two doses of VARIVAX to ensure optimal protection against varicella?

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True or false in children from 9 to 12 months of age the second dose should be given after a minimum interval of 6 months?

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True or false Varilrix® has demonstrated persistent efficacy up to 20 years post-vaccination?

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True or false pregnancy should be avoided for 1 month following the second dose of the vaccine?

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True or false both chickenpox vaccines are contraindicated in active untreated tuberculosis?

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True or false monosodium L-glutamate is an excipient in Varivax®?

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True or false Varilrix® can be given in people with a history of hypersensitivity to neomycin?

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True or false very rare cases of herpes zoster (shingles) have occurred?

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True or false fever is an uncommon adverse effect of the varicella vaccines?

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True or false transmission of vaccine virus from people who have been vaccinated to non-immune close contacts has been documented, but the risk is very low?

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True or false varicella vaccines must never be given at the same time as other live vaccines, for example, MMR?

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True or false live vaccines should either be given simultaneously or after an interval of four weeks?

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True or false Varilrix® should only be administered subcutaneously?

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True or false there is usually no need to check reconstituted products for foreign or particulate matter and for the correct physical appearance?

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True or false the unreconstituted vaccine and diluent should be stored in the original packaging at +2⁰C to +8⁰C?

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A pharmacist led training provider.

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