The continuous rise of e-commerce also means the rise of online availability of medicines. But is it safe?
To be sure of purchasing safely, firstly ensure you are familiar with different medicine categories.
Type of medicines
• General Sales List Medicine (GSL)
• Pharmacy Only Medicine (P-Med)
• Prescription Only Medicine (POM)
General Sales List (GSL)
These are medicines that can be bought from any shop without a prescription or the need to physically go to a pharmacy.
Pharmacy Only Medicines (P-Med)
People can buy products classified as 'pharmacy medicines' (P) but only from a pharmacy and in the presence of a pharmacist. These medicines, also called 'pharmacy-only medicines' are not usually displayed on open shelves and are normally ‘behind-the-counter’.
Prescription Only Medicine (POM)
POMs are only available on prescription from a medical practitioner (GP, Doctors, Nurse prescribers, Pharmacist prescribers)
Secondly, to determine if the website is selling medicines legally and safely you need to know what licenses to look for.
• Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency (MHRA) License
• General Pharmaceutical Council (GPHC) License
Medicines and Healthcare products regulatory agency (MHRA) License
MHRA is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom that is responsible for ensuring that medicines and medical devices work and are acceptably safe.
Anyone selling medicines to the public via a website must be registered with MHRA and display a EU common logo on every page of the website offering medicines for sale. The aim of the EU common logo is to help members of the public to identify websites that can legally sell medicines.
Example of MHRA logo can be seen at the bottom of MyDrugs OnlinePharmacy website.
General Pharmaceutical Council (GPHC) License
GPHC regulate pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in Great Britain. They work to assure and improve standards of care for people using pharmacy services. The sale of Pharmacy (P) medicines must only be done from a premises registered as a pharmacy.
Example of GPHC Logo can be seen at the bottom of MyDrugs OnlinePharmacy website.
So can you buy medicines safely online?
Check the website displays a MHRA license. Click and check they are approved to sell medicine on the website you are on.
If you are purchasing P-Medicines (over-the-counter medicines) check the website is a registered licensed pharmacy.
If you are purchasing prescription only medicines (POM) online
• Ensure steps 1 and 2
• Ensure a registered medical practitioner assesses you. Check a doctor’s registration status here
• Ensure you don’t require a face to face consultation
• Report any concerns to CQC
So the answer is YES, however you must make sure the website is operating legally and is a safe place. MyDrugs OnlinePharmacy is one example where you can find both licenses from the MHRA and GPHC readily available on every page. This means you can safely purchase over-the-counter medicines on this website.
Karan Singh MPharm