Online medication rules branded ‘perverse’ after overdose death of 22-year-old from Stowmarket

A coroner has raised concerns with the availability of medication online Picture: GETTY IMAGES/INGRA

A coroner has raised concerns with the availability of medication online Picture: GETTY IMAGES/INGRAM PUBLISHING - Credit: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

The president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society says it is ‘perverse’ different rules apply for buying medication online after a 22-year-old woman from Stowmarket died from an overdose of drugs bought from the web.

Gemma MacDonald died on July 22, 2019, at West Suffolk Hospital after taking a "massive" amount of medication the night before.

An inquest into her death heard she had made multiple bulk purchases of medication online in the weeks up to her death.

It concluded she did not intend the overdose to be fatal but was likely responding to voices she was hearing due to mental health issues. Following the inquest, area coroner Jacqueline Devonish wrote a Prevention of Future Deaths Report (PFDR), raising concerns about how large quantities of medication could be bought online by an individual, whether there is a system to ensure the buyer is suitable and whether there is a process to limit transactions based on the amount and frequency of ordering.

Sandra Gidley, President of the RPS, said she hoped regulators would look again at the rules concerning online drug sales.

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She said: "The rules regarding the quantities of aspirin and paracetamol that can be bought over the counter were introduced to help reduce suicide rates and the move was hugely successful.

"It is perverse that different rules could apply to online purchases and I would hope that the regulators would look at this as a matter of urgency or, sadly, this will not be the only case of its kind."

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The PFDR was sent to two online medication firms as well as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

A spokesman for the General Pharmaceutical Council said it published new guidance in April, 2019, to protect people buying medicines online.

He said: "We have taken enforcement action against a number of online pharmacies following targeted inspections which found they were not following our guidance and meeting our standards when supplying high-risk medicines.

"In most of these cases we have imposed conditions preventing these pharmacies from selling or supplying opioids and other controlled drugs."

A spokesman for the MHRA, said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case until its response has been sent to the coroner.

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