Drink and Drugs News DDN July 2018 | Page 17

LegaL Line A FEAR OF THE MEDIA SAVVY The news, and the skews, in the national media NEW? Consultation has been launched on online prescribing. Take the opportunity to contribute to better understanding, says Nicole Ridgwell The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has just launched a consultation on changes to their 2015 guidance for pharmacy services provided on the internet or at a distance. The consultation runs until 21 August 2018, and I strongly urge all such providers to contribute. Significantly, the consultation’s tone is one of concern rather than collaboration. In the introduction, it states that GPhC ‘are increasingly concerned about the way some services appear to undermine the important safeguards that are in place to protect patients from accessing medicines that are not clinically appropriate for them’. There is much of note within the consultation and providers must consider the detail to appreciate the potential consequences. For example, the consultation advises that ‘a good pharmacy service will verify the patient’s identity so that the medicines are right for the patient’ – within itself, wholly unarguable, but how to verify? I have seen a provider criticised for not contacting a service user’s NHS GP, where the service user had explicitly refused consent. Also in the consultation, ‘We believe that there are certain categories of medicines that may not be suitable to be prescribed and supplied online unless further action is taken to make sure that they are clinically appropriate for the patient’. The list includes: n antibiotics n opiates and sedatives n medicines for mental health conditions This would have a potentially huge (and hugely financially damaging) impact on the sector, if providers are not prepared. The consultation’s timing and sector scrutiny is unsurprising. A cursory Google search brings up numerous cases in which service users died or were seriously injured after taking inappropriately prescribed medication. Many involve individuals who, for whatever reason, did not divulge their full medical history to an online prescriber. This is of course a risk with prescribing in any environment, but regulators argue that there are greater inherent safeguards in the traditional face-to-face interaction with a GP. Providers will highlight the safeguards that have already been built into online service provision and that current criticism is more a reflection of fear of ‘the new’ (and the financial impact on ‘the traditional’) than any legitimate concern. It will always be the case that new approaches encounter suspicion and scrutiny; it is to be expected. This is not the time for the sector to stick their fingers in their ears and merely hope that regulators will learn to trust them soon. Providers should instead treat t his consultation as an opportunity; to demonstrate their willingness to engage, to explain their safeguards, to demonstrate their procedural safety and their rationales. It is the absence of understanding which is more likely to engender fear and retaliation. I therefore urge providers – take this opportunity to allow the GPhC to understand you. Nicole Ridgwell is solicitor at Ridouts Solicitors, www.ridout-law.com Consultation at www.pharmacyregulation.org www.drinkanddrugsnews.com WHATEVER VIEW OF THE CANNABIS ISSUE IS TAKEN – and The Independent has always been open- minded and pragmatic in its belief – the medicinal use of cannabinoids is a narrower and more straightforward matter. Hospitals and GPs, by analogy, already make use of opioids, real and synthetic, both as painkillers and as heroin substitutes for certain addicts. It is something that is happening every day and, on balance, is something that has relieved human suffering. Even the most militantly conservative sections of opinion shouldn’t challenge those. Yet cannabis oil, a far less hazardous potion than the opioids, has provoked a moral panic as only the British are capable of. Independent editorial, 18 June THE PROBLEM with these rancorous but sterile arguments for and against legalisation and decriminalisation is that they divert attention from what should and can be done: a sustained campaign to persuade people of all ages that cannabis can send them insane. Patrick Cockburn, Independent, 25 June YOUNG PEOPLE WHO TAKE DRUGS at music festivals are only victims once they die. Until then they’re criminals, and know it… To change this, all we really need to do is care about drug users before they die, rather than only afterwards. Hugo Rifkind, Times, 4 June A SMART GOVERNMENT would decriminalise milder [cannabis] variants for those over 21, and make skunk a class A drug… While decriminalisation is the policy of the Liberal Democrats and the aptly named Greens, even Jeremy Corbyn, that doyen of Glastonbury, hasn’t adopted it for Labour. Legalisation will come eventually. The demographics of age make it inevitable. No one under 60 who isn’t a Tory MP believes that non- skunk cannabis is a serious menace. Already, a plurality of those polled favour its licensed sale. The margin will grow with natural wastage until the electoral maths make even the Mail’s opposition irrelevant. Matthew Norman, Independent, 3 June FOR A GENERATION obsessed with all things ethical, isn’t it unethical to buy drugs when there’s so much baggage surrounding the trade?... with cocaine use on the rise in Britain – an estimated 3.6p per cent of millennials took the drug last year, well above the EU average – this is one area where young people clearly have a moral and ethical blind spot. As a millennial myself, I find my generation’s complicity hard to stomach. Tomé Morrissy-Swan, Telegraph, 14 June IT IS THE THOUSANDS of selfish people, with more money than sense, who buy illegal drugs and sustain the whole great stinking heap of wickedness which they bring into being. They should be made to be ashamed of themselves, and to fear the law, made for the benefit of all, which they callously break. Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday, 17 June July/August 2018 | drinkanddrugsnews | 17