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Virtual GP service to pay £13,670 fine after prescribing without CQC registration

by Caitlin Tilley
21 February 2022

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Pharmacorp must pay £13,670 covering fines, legal costs and a victim surcharge for prescribing drugs without a CQC registration, a judge has ruled.

The online GP service, also known as Medicines Direct, pleaded guilty at Tameside Magistrates’ Court this morning (Friday 18 February).

It was fined £3,500, in addition to £10,000 costs and a £170 victim surcharge after being prosecuted by the CQC.

Drugs such as pregabalin, co-codamol and gabapentin were being prescribed to patients by doctors in Romania who appeared to be based in the UK. 

CQC’s head of registration Emma Boger said: ‘I hope this outcome sends a clear message to others that where we find providers operating outside of the law, we will always use our enforcement powers to protect people and hold them to account to stop poor and illegal practice.’

She said she ‘welcomed’ Pharmacorp’s guilty plea, as ‘put[ting] people at risk by running a service without the benefit of CQC registration’ is ‘unacceptable’.

Ms Boger said: ‘The registration process is important to appropriately assess services before they care for people. Services are then monitored and inspected to ensure that they continue to meet standards that people should be able to expect. Unregistered services operate without oversight, putting people at risk of harm.

‘When we find providers operating illegally, we do not hesitate to act to protect people.’

It comes as GMC guidance said doctors should avoid remotely prescribing controlled drugs unless they have access to a patients’ records.

And ministers pledged to ‘take action’ on overprescribing after an official review concluded that 10% of medicines dispensed in primary care in England were not needed.

Meanwhile, the MHRA confirmed to MIP‘s sister title Pulse it does not currently plan to take regulatory action on pregabalin prescribing by GPs, after GPs in Northern Ireland were told in August last year not to initiate it for prescriptions for neuropathic pain following a ‘significant increase’ in deaths related to the drug.

It comes after CQC data has shown a 176% increase in people reporting a bad experience from GP providers in 2021 after the launch of its ‘Give feedback on care’ portal.

This story was initially published on our sister title Pulse.