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Online Prescription Service Prosecuted by CQC

A Stockport company offering online prescriptions has been fined £3500 at Tameside Magistrates’ Court today after pleading guilty to providing services without being registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC prosecuted Pharmacorp Ltd, also known as Medicine Direct, for carrying out a regulated activity while unregistered with the CQC between August 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. The company was offering a service that "exposed patients to a significant risk of harm", the CQC said.

Pharmacorp was also ordered to pay £10,000 costs and a £170 victim surcharge, bringing the total penalty to £13,670.

'UK-Based Doctors' were Actually Based in Romania

The court heart that the service offered medication sent to patients by mail from Pharmacorp’s premises in Stockport following completion of an online questionnaire reviewed by a doctor. While the company’s website suggested that the service operated with UK-based doctors, this was held to be “misleading” as the prescriptions were issued by individual doctors who, although GMC registered, were based in Romania.

The CQC submitted that the online questionnaire "carried the real risk of misdiagnosis", and that prescription requests were completed while unregulated. Prescriptions had included high strength co-codamol, pregabalin, and gabapentin. Without access to the patients’ GP notes, the doctor would have been unable to confirm that the information provided in the questionnaire by the patients was accurate.

"This service exposed patients to a significant risk of harm," it said.

Service 'Put People at Risk'

Digital providers offering online medical consultation services are required to be registered with the CQC, and failure to register is a criminal offence under Section 10 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

Emma Boger, CQC’s head of registration, said: “I hope this outcome sends a clear message to others that where we find providers operating outside of the law, we will always use our enforcement powers to protect people and hold them to account to stop poor and illegal practice.

"It’s unacceptable that Pharmacorp Ltd put people at risk by running a service without the benefit of CQC registration, so I welcome their guilty plea.

"The registration process is important to appropriately assess services before they care for people. Services are then monitored and inspected to ensure that they continue to meet standards that people should be able to expect. Unregistered services operate without oversight, putting people at risk of harm.

"When we find providers operating illegally, we do not hesitate to act to protect people."

Lead Image Credit: Care Quality Commission