1 October 2016

Online Antibiotics Risk Efforts to Curb Growing Global Resistance, Warns RCGP

Responding to research by 5 Live Investigates, Professor Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPS, said:

“Resistance to antibiotics is a global and growing threat and we need to work together as a society to raise public awareness that antibiotics are not always the answer to minor, self-limiting conditions.

“GPs are working hard to reduce antibiotic prescribing with notable success – we saw a reduction of 2.6m prescriptions by GPs last year alone – so it's concerning that patients are increasingly turning to other means to obtain antibiotics, and the ease with which patients can get prescriptions through online pharmacies and online doctors will only serve to hinder our ongoing efforts.

“Patients should be free to use reputable online pharmacies – so long as strict GMC guidelines on remote prescribing are followed, or if they already have a prescription from a GP or other prescribing healthcare professional, and are simply using the online pharmacy as their preferred dispensary.

 “We have serious concerns about patients obtaining prescriptions for antibiotics via online pharmacies against GMC guidance, and in some cases against clinical guidelines from NICE, as this report shows. This not only flies in the face of our efforts to curb growing resistance to antibiotics, but raises serious patient-safety concerns.

“Whoever is making the decision to prescribe will be doing so without necessarily having access to the patient’s medical history - or information about drugs that they have been prescribed previously. Asking patients to fill out a questionnaire online is no substitute to the comprehensive medical notes that will be held by their family doctor. There are also many signs and symptoms that GPs look out for when making a diagnosis, that the patient might not think to raise, or that might not be reflected in the questionnaire.

“Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and they will only prescribe antibiotics to patients when they are necessary and when they are the most appropriate course of treatment. When patients who don’t have a prescription and are obtaining antibiotics via online services, they are putting their own safety, and that of wider society, at risk and this cannot continue.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7581
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.