New guidelines require online pharmacies in Britain to verify patients’ identities before filling prescriptions.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), which regulates pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in Britain, recently published guidelines for registered pharmacies providing pharmacy services at a distance, such as via the internet. The new guidelines are updates from 2015, which many pharmacy bodies argued did not go far enough at ensuring the right people received the right medications.
The goal of the new regulations is to ensure that the sales of substances of abuse are more tightly controlled. Regulators hope close monitoring will better limit the public’s access to medicines that are often abused, like opioids.
What’s New in the Standards?
Pharmacy staff must “check that the person receiving pharmacy services is who they claim to be, by carrying out an appropriate identity check,” according to the guidelines.
For example, the guidelines suggest that staff check identities using NHS Digital’s identity verification and authentication standard for digital health and care services’ information standard. It was first published in June 2018 and forms part of the NHS login that aims to give patients one secure login to all digital health records and services. Currently, the NHS login is part of a pilot program in which it is being used in five projects and in the NHS App, which is being rolled out across the country.
To use the login, patients must provide photo IDs, such as a passports or driver’s licenses, as well as proof of addresses, to verify their identities.
Guidelines Also Safeguard Certain Medications
The identity verification requirement also is necessary for four types of medications:
- Prescriptions prone to abuse, overuse, or misuse, such as opiates and laxatives
- Medications that require ongoing monitoring, such as those that treat diabetes, epilepsy, or mental health conditions
- Non-surgical cosmetic medicinal products, such as Botox
Though some in the pharmacy field recognize the importance of protecting patients, some in the industry believe the new requirement will place undue burdens on patients and pharmacy services.
Some feel it is important that regulators monitor the impact of the introduction of any new verification measures to ensure that people still receive prescriptions promptly.
Pharmacy owners also must ensure that an online prescriber contacts the patient’s regular prescriber before issuing these types of medicines. This step ensures that the pharmacy technician confirms that medicine the patient is seeking is appropriate and being monitored, as needed.
Additionally, the guidelines prohibit online pharmacies from offering patients the choice between medicines that are only available via prescriptions and choice of quantity before an appropriate consultation was held.
Furthermore, pharmacy owners will have to audit the “suitability of communication methods with people using pharmacy services.” Online pharmacies will be expected to monitor multiple orders that are being sent to the same address or those being used with the same payment information. Owners also must be on the lookout for larger than normal or more frequent refills, as well as inappropriate medication combinations.
As online pharmacies begin to accept and implement the regulations, they should expect some growing pains. Online pharmacies and owners also must be vigilant in weeding out any illegal or fraudulent activity. Adhering to all of the guidelines, as well as employing some of their own tools to track fraudsters will be the best approach to take moving forward.
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