Online prescription service sued by CQC

A Stockport company offering online prescriptions was today fined £3,500 by Tameside Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to providing services without being registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC ).

The CQC sued Pharmacorp Ltd, also known as Medicine Direct, for carrying on regulated business while not registered with the CQC between August 1, 2018 and July 1, 2019. The company offered a service that “put patients at significant risk of harm,” the CQC said.

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

The ‘UK-based doctors’ were actually based in Romania

The heart of the court that the service offered drugs sent to patients by courier from Pharmacorp’s premises in Stockport after completing an online questionnaire reviewed by a doctor. While the company’s website suggested the service worked with doctors based in the UK, this was deemed ‘misleading’ as prescriptions were issued by individual doctors who, although registered with the GMC, were based in Romania.

The CQC argued that the online questionnaire “carried a real risk of misdiagnosis” and that prescription requests were filled when they were unregulated. The prescriptions included high-strength co-codamol, pregabalin and gabapentin. Without access to the patients’ GP notes, the doctor would not have been able to confirm that the information provided in the questionnaire by the patients was accurate.

“This service put patients at significant risk of harm,” he said.

Service ‘Endanger people’

Digital providers offering online medical consultation services must be registered with the CQC, and failure to register is a criminal offense under section 10 of the Health and Welfare Act 2008.

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

“It is unacceptable for Pharmacorp Ltd to 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 properly assess services before they attend to people. Services are then monitored and inspected to ensure they continue to meet the standards that people should be able to rely on. Unregistered services operate unattended, putting people at risk of harm.

“When we find service providers operating illegally, we do not hesitate to act to protect people.”

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