On Monday 6 August 2018 BBC Panorama aired an investigation into Online Doctors Uncovered which cited safety concerns over websites selling prescription drugs.
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of general practice for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) [at the time of writing], has said:
You should look for the CQC logo because some of these websites, if they are not regulated by the CQC, can be very, very dangerous.
We know that these websites can present convenient ways for people to access advice, treatment and medication.
However some services may be putting patients at risk. We are particularly concerned that risks to patients may not always be appropriately assessed or managed when they buy medicines online.
As with conventional GP surgeries, these online companies and pharmacies are required to provide safe, high-quality and compassionate care and must adhere to exactly the same standards. They must not cut corners.
We will continue to work closely with the other regulatory bodies to share intelligence where we have concerns and take action where necessary. Providers and clinicians must be clear on their responsibilities to protect people who use their services.
Concerns were raised for pharmacy websites that avoid CQC regulation by using overseas doctors, eg in Romania, where there is no UK regulatory oversight. CQC regulations ensure high standards and patient safety and are enforced with targeted inspections. The CQC can and do take action where standards are not met, and have specific advice for choosing an online healthcare service.
It’s best to see your GP before buying medicines online as they know your medical history and can advise you whether the medicine would be suitable.
If you choose to buy medicines online, ensure that: