The UK’s health care regulator is calling for greater powers to protect patients from online GPs that are able avoid regulation by contracting doctors based abroad.
This follows upon a struck-off doctor being discovered using a loophole to prescribe “unsafe” drugs. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, an investigation found that an online company set-up by former doctor Julian Eden prescribed “dangerous” drugs to patients whose own GPs would be highly unlikely to prescribe to them.
It will reveal how a loophole in legislation allows Eden’s company, EuroRX, to prescribe medication because it is based overseas.
The report says the investigation found several websites, including EuroRX, are avoiding regulation by contracting their doctors from companies based in Romania. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) can only inspect online sites if the doctors prescribing for them are contracted by companies in England.
Professor Steve Field, chief inspector of General Practice for the CQC, said that if websites are not regulated by the CQC they “can be very, very dangerous.” He added: “As a GP it makes me very angry that patients are put at risk and as a regulator it makes me even more certain that we need to try and get the legislation changed so that people can’t just bypass our regulatory activities.”
The report says in 2009, the General Medical Council banned Eden from prescribing and described him as putting profit before patient care after two of his patients became addicted to drugs he had prescribed through his UK-based online business, E-Med.
Reporters posed as potential investors and filmed Eden describing the CQC as “idiots”.
He revealed that he now works in Europe to avoid England’s regulatory bodies. He later said that he respects the CQC and has never sought to evade its oversight. He said all of his business investments overseas are subject to their own regulations.
The report says as part of the investigation, Eleanor, who was treated for anorexia when she was a teenager, was able to order three months-worth of prescription slimming pills from one company based in Romania. Eleanor said: “I’ve got so many diet pills here and if I’d still been in the depths of my illness it would have been so dangerous for me, literally a massive, massive box of them.”The Daily Telegraph report