All retail pharmacies in Great Britain, including those providing internet services, must be registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. While a number of legitimate registered pharmacies provide online pharmacy services, there are also a number of suppliers operating from websites offering to sell medicines who have no professional qualifications or healthcare expertise. Buying medicines from websites that are not connected to registered pharmacies can present a number of risks. There is no opportunity for an appropriately qualified health professional to assess whether the medicine is safe and appropriate for you to use or advise on how the medication should be taken. In addition, the safety and quality of medicines sold by unqualified internet suppliers cannot be guaranteed.

The Society is introducing a new logo which will be seen on the front page of participating online pharmacy sites. It is hoped that this will help people identify whether a website offering to sell medicines or provide other pharmacy services is connected to a registered pharmacy. By clicking on the logo visitors are linked to a page on this website where they can make checks to ensure the site is a registered pharmacy.

For members of the public

What are the dangers of buying prescription drugs online?

The trading opportunities of the internet have resulted in medicines being readily available from online suppliers who have no relevant professional qualifications or healthcare expertise. Many of these websites operate illegally by offering the supply of prescription-only medicines without having a valid prescription. This means that you may acquire medicines without the benefit of a consultation with an appropriate healthcare professional and risk being supplied medicines that are not safe or suitable for you. The safety and quality of products being sold by unqualified internet suppliers cannot be guaranteed. The medicines may be counterfeit, substandard or unapproved new drugs.

Enquiries received by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, other regulators and consumer groups indicate a great deal of confusion among the general public about the regulation of internet pharmacies.  The Society acknowledges that it can be difficult to distinguish between registered online pharmacies and other commercial websites.  In December 2007, the Society launched an internet pharmacy logo to identify legitimate online pharmacies so that the public can be sure they are purchasing safe and genuine medicines online.

How will the new internet pharmacy logo assist members of the public who want to purchase medicines on the internet?

The logo is designed to help the public to identify legitimate websites that are operated from pharmacies that are registered with the RPSGB.

The logo will not only provide a visual means to help patients identify whether a website is connected to a registered pharmacy, but it will also provide a direct link to the Society’s website.  By clicking on the logo, you can verify the registration details of both the pharmacy and the pharmacist(s) behind the website.

Do these rules include natural health supplements?

No! Natural health supplements aren’t covered in these rules due to their ‘natural’ ingredient content. If patients ask for specific advice surrounding a particular health supplement, you can refer them to the manufacturer’s literature for further information. In regards to the recent increased popularity of “herbal testosterone supplements”, you can refer them to certain high quality websites, as shown in the above link.

All retail pharmacies in Great Britain, including those providing internet services, must be registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. Only registered pharmacies that offer professional services via the internet can use the internet pharmacy logo.

What does the logo look like?

The template for the logo is shown below:

The text XXXXXX in the template will be replaced with the pharmacy premises registration number.  The premises registration number is unique to each pharmacy. By clicking on the logo you will be taken to the page on this website that confirms that the pharmacy premises are registered.

Websites displaying the internet pharmacy logo can be found using the Search our registers page of this website, which you can also access from the search box at the top right of all pages on this website. For a regularly updated list of websites that have been provided with the internet pharmacy logo, click on the link below:

Are there standards for pharmacists operating internet sites?

The RPSGB Code of Ethics for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians sets out the standards of conduct, practice and performance expected of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Code could put a pharmacist’s or pharmacy technician’s registration at risk. One of the principles of the Code of Ethics is “Make the care of patients your first concern”. In addition, the Society has developed professional standards and guidance documents to supplement the requirements of the Code. One of these documents, Professional standards and guidance for internet pharmacy services, expands on the principles of the Code of Ethics to set out the professional responsibilities for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians who are involved in the sale and supply of medicines via the internet.

Should I make any other checks?

Checking a website for the internet pharmacy logo is one of a number of checks you should make before purchasing your medicines over the internet. Other things you should do include:

  • Locating the name and address of the pharmacy operating the website;
  • Checking that the pharmacist and pharmacy are;
  • Avoiding websites that offer to supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription;
  • Checking that you are asked questions before purchasing your medicine. Registered pharmacies are required to check that a medicine is suitable for a patient to use before selling it.

If you have concerns about a pharmacy or pharmacist registered in Great Britain or would like further information about the internet pharmacy logo, please contact:

For pharmacists

Background

All retail pharmacies in Great Britain, including those providing internet services, must be registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. While a number of legitimate registered pharmacies provide online pharmacy services, there are also a number of suppliers operating from websites offering to sell medicines who have no professional qualifications or healthcare expertise.

The RPSGB aims to help the public to distinguish legitimate online pharmacies by regulating UK internet pharmacies so that they can be sure they are purchasing safe and genuine medicines online. The RPSGB is working towards educating the public of the risks of buying medicines from unregulated online suppliers, and encouraging them to look for the RPSGB’s internet pharmacy logo.

The internet pharmacy logo has been developed as a visual tool to assist members of the public in identifying websites operated by bona fide registered pharmacies providing professional services.  The template for the logo is shown below:

The text XXXXXX in the template will be replaced with the pharmacy premises registration number. By clicking on the logo, the visitor will be directed to the page on this website that confirms that the pharmacy premises are registered.

All retail pharmacies in Great Britain, including those providing internet services, must be registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. Only registered online pharmacies can use the internet pharmacy logo. You do not have to display the logo on your website, but displaying it will be of benefit to patients.

How to apply

Step 1: Ensure that your pharmacy complies with the Code of Ethics for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians and the supporting standards and guidance documents, in particular the supporting document Professional standards and guidance for internet pharmacy services.

Step 2: Read and ensure that you comply with the conditions for use of the internet pharmacy logo. If your website does not comply with the conditions for use, you will be contacted by the Society.

Step 3: Complete the online application form. Please note that the e-mail address you provide may be used by the Society to contact you when necessary, and the telephone number you provide will be used by the Society to contact you to arrange payment for the logo. You must fill in all the fields of the self-assessment section of the form except where you are directed to bypass questions.

Step 4: Once you have been issued with the html code for the logo, this can be used to generate the logo.  Ensure that your logo is placed in a prominent position on the home page of your website.