17 February 2017

Online Access to Antibiotics Undermines GPs' Hard Work to Tackle AMR, Says RCGP

Responding to a study by Imperial College London on online-only pharmacies that don’t require prescriptions for antibiotics, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Resistance to antibiotics is a growing global health issue – one of the most serious of our time. Antibiotics are excellent drugs when they are used appropriately, and for many bacterial infections there is no alternative so we must work together and do what we can to safeguard their effectiveness.

“It’s incredibly concerning to hear that antibiotics are so readily available to patients via some online pharmacies without a prescription. This is against strict GMC guidance on remote prescribing – and it undermines the hard work that GPs are doing to reduce antibiotics prescribing, which saw prescriptions reduce by 2.6m in general practice last year alone.

“Antibiotics are not the answer to minor, self-limiting conditions and what patients need to realise is that, if they build up resistance to antibiotics through using them inappropriately, then these important drugs might not work when they really do need them.

“There is also a very real patient safety issue at play here. It sounds as though decisions are being made to supply antibiotics to patients by someone who doesn’t have access to their relevant medical history: answers to an online questionnaire are no substitute for comprehensive medical records, which amongst other things include details of allergies.

“That this study has found this practice to be so widespread is extremely worrying, and it’s important that it has been highlighted, so that it can be tackled robustly in the best interests of our patients’ safety and global health in general.

“The College has worked with Public Health England to develop the TARGET Antibiotics toolkit to support healthcare professionals in the appropriate prescribing of antibiotics.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.