With the global spread of smartphones and the accessibility to internet connections, it comes as no surprise that pharmacists are beginning to gravitate towards the use of online platform to render pharmaceutical care. The intervention of theHonourable Minister for Health in swiftly providing regulation for online pharmaceutical practice did not also come as a surprise.
What are online Pharmacies?
Online pharmacies refer to the delivery of pharmaceutical care through the instrumentality of electronic or digital platforms such as computers and smartphones to patients in circumstances where they cannot have direct access to a pharmacist or in circumstances where, although, they can access physical pharmacies but opt for the online pharmaceutical option for the convenience and privacy that comes with it.
The regulation is divided into 4 parts to wit: Registration and licensing, Inspection Monitoring and Enforcement, Operation of online Pharmacy and General provisions.
Part I- Registration and licensing
Regulation 1 empowers the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria to register internet based pharmaceutical services, same way it does traditional pharmaceutical entities.
Regulation 2,3 and 4 speaks to licencing requirements.
Regulation 3(2)prescribes that physical address of the online pharmacy must be visible online. This provision presupposes that the regulation contemplates a hybrid form of pharmaceutical practice, by which in addition to online presence, the pharmacy must have physical presence.
Regulation 9 provides that internet based pharmaceutical service must comply with the relevant laws relating to Information and Communication Technology such as the National Information Technology Development Agency Act, the Cyber Crime (Prohibition and Prevention) Act etc.
Part II-Inspection and Monitoring
Regulation 10 provides that prior to issuance of licence, the Council shall carry out inspection of the internet based pharmacyat the physical address that hosts the pharmacy.
Part III-Operation of Online Pharmacy
Regulation 12 provides that every internet based pharmaceutical service provider shall make its site user friendly and interactive for the purpose of:
- Consultancy services to patients and clients;
- Educating patients regarding the medications and disease states;
- Contacting patients regarding delays in delivering prescriptions as well as feedback and recalls; and
- Reporting adverse drug reactions and medication errors.
Regulation 14(2) prohibits the sale of dangerous drugs online.
Regulation 17 provides that internet based pharmaceutical service providers must provide a system for safe and secure delivery of medications and ensure that the right medication is mailed to the patient.
Part IV-General Provisions
Regulation 19(2) provides that the premises and sites of internet based pharmaceutical service providerswill be closed by the council where they fail to obtain the requisite licence.
Regulation 21(5) provides that a pharmacist may only register one (1)internet-based platform at any given time.
Offences and Penalties
Regulation 22(3) prescribes imprisonment for a period not less than 6 months or to fine not less than N250,000.00 or to both as penalty for contravention of the Regulation.
There is no gainsaying that the recognition of online pharmacy is laudable as it enhances access to pharmaceutical care. However, one of the drawbacks is the potential decrease in interaction between pharmacists and patients.
Another shortfall of this regulation is its failure to define the practicality of the operation of online pharmacies. Specifically, it fails to specify if online pharmacies registered under the regulation are designed to operate in the same configuration as telemedicine, whereby the Doctor and patient interact through video conferencing.
JOHN AYOBAMI AKINWUMI
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