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Buying meds online puts health at risk, says health watchdog


Buying meds online puts health at risk, says health watchdogPeople should be cautious when purchasing medications online after an investigation uncovered "widespread failings" at some Internet-based providers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said.

The independent regulator of health and social care in England inspected 11 internet prescription services in the country and found some "potentially presenting a significant risk to patients".

Despite some providers being well-run, others were cutting corners, according to the CQC investigation. For example, two online providers - and MD Direct - did little or no checking of patients' identities. In addition, they were guilty of inadequate prescribing and gave no assurances that the clinicians working behind the scenes had the qualifications or relevant skills for the roles they were performing.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Prof Steve Field, the CQC's chief inspector of general practice, said: ""Some of these websites prescribed unlicensed medicines and - even more worryingly - medicines for diabetes, Parkinson's disease, heart disease and Lithium for bipolar disorder."

The CQC has now drawn up a set of clear standards for online pharmacies. Going forward, all Internet-based providers must:

  • verify that a patient is who they say they are, such as through a Skype check

  • obtain a comprehensive and up-to-date medical history

  • ensure patients truly understand what medicines they are being given

  • seek permission to contact a patient's GP

One of the biggest problems cited with antibiotics being sold online is that some people treat them like sweets. More discipline is needed if we are to prevent the so-called antibiotic apocalypse - where bacteria become resistant to more and more drugs - from happening.