Websites selling medicines over the internet have been heavily criticised for endangering patients, after an investigation found a case where a prescription was approved in only 17 seconds.
A recent inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed insufficient standards at four online providers.
Another provider was singled out for prescribing ‘high levels’ of opioid-based medicines without performing sufficient checks on the medical history of patients.
Specifically, the inspection found that medical firm Doctor Matt Ltd was issuing prescriptions after assessing patient questionnaires for less than 30 seconds. It has now been suspended from operating for six months.
Elsewhere, White Pharmacy Ltd was singled out for providing opioid based medicines without establishing a system to determine the medical histories of patients before issuing the prescriptions.
Other issues that emerged included poor communication with patients’ GPs, unsuitable medicines being prescribed and insufficient checks on users’ identities.
Professor Steve Field, who heads up the CQC’s online prescription inspection regime, said that online providers had a duty to provide safety and care for patients.
He told the BBC: ‘We expect the same standards of quality and safety to be met as we would see in more traditional GP settings – this is exactly what people deserve.’
But Dr Helen Webberyley, who works for Doctor Matt, has since defended the site and said it was entirely possible to approve a prescription in 17 seconds.
She told the Today programme: ‘After the inspection we reviewed all the cases that were highlighted. The 17 second prescription is actually much longer than an NHS repeat prescription. The patient has been on this medication for some time.’
Responding to the findings, Doctor Matt ltd spokesman Angus Wrixon added that patient safety had always been a priority.
He told the BBC: ‘Interactions may last only a few seconds, for example, when a known customer is requesting a repeat prescription – as is the case in many normal GP consultations.’