Avoiding fake healthcare and counterfeit medication

 In Pharmacy Information, Simplifying Product Supply

The characteristics of patients has significantly changed in recent years. With vastly increased access to instant information, the modern patient is increasingly well-informed. The term “Expert Patient” has been used to describe this phenomenon. However, as their knowledge has increase, so has their expectation of treatment availability and success, in particular the expectation to have prompt access to healthcare services 24 hours a day.

These factors have put increased pressure on health and social care organisations to keep up with the growing demand. For example, annual attendances at A&E’s across England in 1987-88 was recorded as 13,903,667, compared to 23,371,928 attendances in 2016-2017, meaning attendances at A&E have almost doubled in 30 years, and this trend is increasing. However, with this unprecedented demand for healthcare services, there are often barriers for patients seeking help from the NHS services, which can lead them elsewhere for treatment.

Difficulties for the modern patient

Firstly, access to their GP is not always easy. With more and more people seeking medical advice, some practices become fully booked, meaning patients can struggle to get an appointment quickly. For minor ailments, patients should consult their local pharmacists, but many go to A&E. This can increase waiting times unnecessarily and endanger others who are facing a medical emergency.

There is also a decreasing level of trust shown towards experts, which was perfectly showcased during recent political campaigns. Michael Gove said, “The people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms, saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.” Most significantly this lack of trust has led to the anti-vaccine movement, as there is increasing public opinion that vaccinations are dangerous, particularly in children, despite all official evidence stating otherwise.

The culmination of these factors can lead people to look online for alternative sources of advice or assistance. It is now incredibly easy to self-diagnose conditions using online resources, but often diagnosis is inaccurate and causes needless worry. In addition, people can often be misinformed due to fake news as well as peer-to-peer discussions on all topics that take place without professional involvement. This has risen dramatically with the emergence of social media.

The internet and counterfeit medication

Having decided to obtain medication, some people look online. This can lead to them sourcing inappropriate, unregulated and possibly counterfeit medication due to the lack of scrutiny. It is harder to regulate online markets and this means it’s easier for inappropriate or fake medication to be supplied. In 2016, over 5,000 unofficial online pharmacies were closed by the MHRA, the UK’s regulator of medicines.

Patients also increasingly rely on alternative medicines and treatments, including health supplements or vitamins that are often expensive and have no proven benefits. The NHS are taking steps to reduce this and will be stopping the prescribing of homeopathic and herbal medicines by GPs. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has announced it will visit registered online consultation and prescription services. Any providers who are putting patients at risk will be shut down. It has has published clear standards for online pharmacies, who must verify patients, match their photo ID, get a comprehensive and up-to-date medical history, ensure patients understand the medication they’re being given, and seek permission to contact a patient’s GP.

Wholesaler Dealers License

People’s propensity to shop online has also made it crucial to take steps to prevent counterfeit medication from entering the supply chain. A vital part of this process is to ensure that your supplier has an MHRA Wholesale Dealer’s Licence (WDL). This is a legal requirement for any supplier of stock medication and is intended to protect the supply chain from counterfeit or substandard products. Licence holders are regularly inspected to ensure they comply with MHRA’s quality standards, which in turn ensures the safety of your patients.

Most community pharmacies and NHS Trusts do not currently hold this licence as they are licensed to dispense named-patient medication via prescriptions. However, they will have obtained their medicines from the manufacturer or a supplier with a WDL, which prevents counterfeit medicines from being supplies to patients. But without the licence a premises cannot legally supply
stock prescription medication.

Ashtons Hospital Pharmacy Services is unique as it is: a registered pharmacy with the General Pharmaceutical Council; a licensed online pharmacy with the MHRA; a licensed wholesaler of medicines with the MHRA; and is licensed to supply stock controlled drugs by the Home Office.



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