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Innovation and regulation in the pharmacy sector

Innovation and regulation in the pharmacy sector

Tuesday 21st November 2017

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Healthcare Bulletin - Issue 4

Mobile apps allow us to try new restaurants without leaving our homes, hail cabs, check in for flights, have GP consultations and order our prescriptions. The pertinent question is no longer “what can we do with our mobile devices?”, but rather “what can we not do?”.

The pharmacy sector has not been left behind in the field of innovation, with several repeat prescription ordering apps providing a much needed convenience for patients. Traditional pharmacies can diversify their offering by making their services accessible via a mobile app which utilises the NHS Electronic Prescription Service, enabling patients to have prescriptions sent electronically to their chosen pharmacy.

The recent revocation of Uber’s private hire operating licence in London highlights the importance of regulatory compliance when providing an innovative service. GPhC guidance suggests that any app utilised in the provision of pharmacy services should clearly display:

  • The pharmacy’s GPhC registration number;
  • The name of the owner of the registered pharmacy;
  • The name of the superintendent pharmacist (if any);
  • The registered pharmacy that is supplying and preparing the medicines;
  • Information about how to check the registration status of the pharmacy;
  • The contact details of the pharmacy; and
  • Information about how patients and users of the app can provide feedback and raise concerns.

Transparency and patient choice remain vital when providing pharmacy services via a website or app. Convenience should not come at the cost of a patient’s ability to make an informed choice, and information about how a patient can obtain further advice should be clearly displayed within the app or website. The patient’s consent is also still required and access to the prescribing services should be limited until explicit consent is provided by the patient.

Apps or websites offering prescription services may be considered to be specialist equipment and are likely to collect personal data about patients, including their GPs and current prescriptions. As with traditional pharmacies, those providing prescription services via an app or website should be aware of data protection legislation and the requirements to identify how the patient’s consent to process such information was obtained. The advantage that apps and websites have is that they are in a position to explicitly ask patients for their consent and, as such, can easily identify how and when such consent was obtained.

Registration with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is required for an app or website selling medicines to the public and allows an online pharmacy to be included on the MHRA’s list of UK registered online retail sellers. The registered EU common logo must be displayed on the pharmacy’s app or website. Pharmacies registered with the GPhC can also apply to use the GPhC voluntary internet pharmacy logo.

Innovation should be embraced, especially where it enables pharmacies to provide better, more rounded services that are suited to patients’ busy lifestyles. However, it is clear that starting an online pharmacy or developing a pharmacy app requires careful consideration about the regulation involved.

If you are interested in hearing more about innovation and regulation in the pharmacy sector, please do not hesitate to contact us on the details provided below.

Richard Hough

Partner & Pharmacist - Head of Healthcare
T: 0151 600 3302/ 0161 836 8800
Email Richard