PRimage client, Pharmacy2U, is the UK’s leading dedicated internet and mail order pharmacy operation, and advocates that internet pharmacy, properly and professionally regulated and strictly monitored, provides a valuable service and additional choice for consumers. Since its launch in 1999, the company’s robust checks and balances business processes and powerful audit systems have been a benchmark example of best practice in e-pharmacy.
Pharmacy2U Managing Director, Daniel Lee, says that during the past year he has noted, with increasing concern, that the current internet pharmacy logo is being used by pharmacies which do not adhere to the current Code of Ethics and the proposed GPhC Council Standards for pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists of retail pharmacy business services. This is a matter of great professional and commercial concern for Pharmacy2U, and to highlight the problem and validate their concerns, the company have conducted an audit and review of the websites of 100 online pharmacies using the Internet Pharmacy Logo.
The audit research findings are very disturbing and reinforce this growing problem – revealing that a number of pharmacies displaying the internet pharmacy logo unfortunately have not fulfilled even the simplest requirements of the standard: such as clearly displaying the name of the owner of the business, or providing information on how to confirm the registration status of the pharmacy or pharmacist.
Of the 100 pharmacies reviewed in the audit sample:
• 23% were not conforming
• 14% were not showing the name of the business
• 16% did not state the superintendent pharmacist
• 16% were not displaying information on how to confirm status
• 16% were not displaying complaints information
• 13% were contravening NHS brand guidelines
Mr Lee comments: “We believe strongly that the verification process for the internet pharmacy logo needs to be robustly monitored and adhered to. It is vital that the new GPhC, DH, policy makers and other stakeholders recognise this – and Pharmacy2U are committed to campaigning to achieve this. The internet pharmacy logo could be a fantastic tool to enable consumers to find a trusted source of internet pharmacy – but its success and validity can only be based on a tightly controlled process for the distribution of the logo and the monitoring of its use”
“Over the past decade internet and mail order pharmacy has been positively recognised within many Department of Health policy documents – and has been acknowledged as fulfilling the NHS ethos of meeting the needs of patients, with ease of access, convenience and choice. Our research findings show that the credibility and integrity of Internet pharmacy is being put at risk – which is damaging for consumers and for the confidence that the public and opinion holders have in online pharmacy.”
Pharmacy2U recommend that the following five requirements are needed to increase the robustness of the verification process for the internet pharmacy logo, ensuring:
• Patients privacy is protected
• Adherence to a recognized and agreed standard of practice
• Conformation to other standards such as Trading standards, Distance Selling Directives, ISO90071, etc
• On site inspection mandatory with appropriate costs charged to the registering pharmacy
• Possibility of a new third party organisation to ensure that applicants meet the initial and ongoing requirements for registration
These recommendations will be part of the Pharmacy2U campaigning message to the GPhC and other key opinion formers and policy makers.
Pharmacy2U is further worried about the many illegal internet pharmacies operating in the UK. Mr Lee has zero tolerance of illegal and non conforming internet pharmacies – and the company continually report these rogue websites to the MHRA. Unfortunately, according to Mr Lee, there is little the MRHA can do for rogue websites operating outside of the UK.
The company is not alone in their concerns on this issue. In September Google announced its intention to file lawsuits against online rogue pharmacies that it believes have deliberately broken its advertising rules.