Is it safe to buy prescriptions from app

A new study by researchers from The University of Western Australia has found that none of the so-called “instant” prescription request apps currently available meet national requirements for safe prescribing.

The first-known study of its kind explored five types of medicine offered by seven different prescription apps available in Australia.

It found none of the apps met the 12 core competencies for safe prescribing listed by the National Prescribing Service, MedicineWise.

“Potentially we have thousands of people taking the wrong dose of a self-selected medicine, and we don’t even know who they are. It’s a ticking time bomb.”

Dr Sandra Salter, UWA School of Allied Health

While five of the seven apps met requirements concerned with reviewing a customer’s medical and medication history, none involved giving a physical examination and all but one ailed to address whether patients adhered to medication.

Senior author Dr Sandra Salter, from UWA’s School of Allied Health, said the apps may be a convenient and accessible way to obtain a prescription for a medication but this method diminished professional involvement, which could impact patient care.

“Consumers and healthcare professionals should consider the safety implications,” Dr Salter said.

“Prescriptions provided via apps can’t fully check for drug interactions or provide a personalised dose for the patient.

“Instead of being told exactly the right dose for them, patients could receive generic instructions, including ‘take as directed by the doctor’, even though they haven’t seen a doctor.

“Potentially we have thousands of people taking the wrong dose of a self-selected medicine, and we don’t even know who they are. It’s a ticking time bomb.”

Prescription App

The medications explored in the study included Sildenafil (sold under the brand name Viagra), Sertraline, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, and Colchicine, used to treat gout.

All have potential health impacts from either misuse, adverse side effects, or serious drug interactions and some required frequent monitoring or complex dosing regimens.

“The questionnaires used by the apps are also open to being exploited by customers, who might give a false answer to obtain a prescription,” Dr Salter said.

The findings of the research, published in Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, mirrored concerns raised by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia.

Researchers are calling for further comprehensive studies and are recommending the services be regulated to make sure they meet health and safety standards.

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