Lethal drugs can be bought online in just five minutes, health watchdog warns
It takes just five minutes for anyone with a credit card to buy lethal drugs online, health watchdogs have warned, as they call for the public to take more care before buying prescription drugs from websites.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it was “hugely concerned” that people were able to access deadly drugs by going to sites which they assumed were British and regulated, but were actually operated overseas.
Peter Wyman, chairman of the CQC, urged the public to be “very cautious” over websites that aren’t regulated by UK watchdogs.
He told the Health and Social Care Committee that while regulators could force medical websites based in England to take action if risks were identified, with similar systems in devolved nations, they could do nothing about a plethora of sites operating overseas.
Often, anyone browsing such sites, in search of drugs such as pain relief, could end up taking potentially fatal risks, he warned.
“You can go online, you can very quickly find something that looks like a British medical practice, with possibly GMC (General Medical Council) registered doctors, that to the ordinary person looks perfectly reputable, but it’s operating outside this country and not just outside our legal jurisdiction but also our practical jurisdiction and that’s a real challenge.”
“If something looks like it’s very English but it’s actually in some far away part of the world you can’t regulate it.”
Urging the public to check any site was CQC-registered before considering using its medical services, he said:
“Candidly anybody on the Committee within five minutes could get any lethal combination of drugs that they want and they will be delivered the next day at home, all you need is a credit card, and that is hugely concerning and its out with any capability of regulation to deal with it.
“There is an education process to put the public on notice that if something isn’t CQC registered or similar in devolved nations, then they should be very, very cautious.
“In my mind I can’t see any other practical way of dealing with it because you can never regulate what happens on the internet in another country.”
The watchdog also called for long-term funding for social care, warning that the system is of elderly care is not working in most parts of the country. New Care Quality Commission (CQC) chief executive Ian Trenholm said that a “long term and sustainable solution” on to how social care is funded is needed. It comes just a day after Philip Hammond announced a £650 million injection into social care in the Budget. Mr Trenholm said it was getting more and more difficult for patients to access care.
“People are waiting longer to see their GPs, they are finding it much more difficult to get the care in their own home that they need, which means they’re more likely to end up in hospital and they’re more likely to end up staying there once they are there and less likely to be able to leave,” he said.
Mr Wyman said the watchdog’s review of elderly care, which examined 20 parts of the country, to see how the system works found that “it usually doesn’t work very well”.