GMC to investigate questionable online prescribing

DOCTORS accused of inappropriate online prescribing of antibiotics in a BBC probe are to be investigated by the GMC.

Evidence collected by a BBC 5 Live investigation into 17 UK-based pharmacies selling antibiotics online revealed apparent breaches in clinical and professional guidance. Undercover reporters were issued online antibiotic prescriptions often with little or no specific consideration of reported symptoms and obvious indications.

Antibiotics were also sold at inflated prices compared to those provided via an NHS prescription.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC, said: "Online prescribing is part of a rapidly changing environment and it will have a place in future healthcare delivery. But the doctor’s obligations to patients and their safety does not change because the consultation is online.

“Our prescribing guidance makes it absolutely clear that doctors may prescribe only when they have adequate knowledge of the patient’s health, and are satisfied that the medicines serve the patient’s needs. The guidance also makes it clear that they should take account of clinical guidelines published by established organisations with appropriate expertise, such as NICE.

“Overprescribing of antibiotics risks the health of us all, and it is important that every practising doctor in the UK reflects on current guidance. Although we cannot comment on specific investigations, the BBC has produced serious allegations and we will be looking into them carefully. Of course the law requires us to consider each case on its merits, but doctors who pose a risk to patients can, and do, face sanctions for mis-prescribing.”