People should be wary of buying medications on the internet after an investigation found “widespread failings” at some online providers, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said. The watchdog inspected 11 internet prescription services in England, finding some “potentially presenting a significant risk to patients”. The regulator said while some providers were well-run, others “cut corners”. The CQC says it will visit providers and close any putting patients at risk. It follows a BBC Radio 5 Live investigation into online pharmacies selling antibiotics. The CQC has published reports on urgent inspections of two websites: Treated.com, run by HR Healthcare, and MD Direct, which traded through Assetchemist.co.uk.  Prof Steve Field, the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, said there was “little clinical oversight” in the way many websites sold medications. “Some of these websites prescribed unlicensed medicines and – even more worryingly – medicines for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease and Lithium for bipolar disorder,” he told BBC’s Radio 5 Live. “Patients can go online, self-diagnose their condition, order their own medicine and obtain a prescription from the online doctor service, with minimal checks,” he said. The CQC has now published a clear set of standards for online pharmacies, saying they must:
•    verify that patients match their photo ID, such as through a Skype check
•    get a comprehensive and up-to-date medical history
•    ensure patients truly understand what medicines they are being given
•    seek permission to contact a patient’s GP
Treated.com was the focus of the 5 Live investigation in October. The CQC suspended the website two months later and began an inspection of its operations.

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