BASHH expresses concern at irresponsible online prescribing of antibiotics for STIs

4th October 2016

The British Association of Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) expresses concern around the online prescribing of antibiotics for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), in the absence of test results, examination and testing for co-existing STIs.

A recent BBC investigation showed that a number of online pharmacies are contravening best practice guidelines by prescribing antibiotics for STIs, including syphilis and gonorrhoea, without having access to patient’s medical histories, swab results and antibiotic sensitivities.

In 2015 the Chief Medical and Pharmaceutical Officers wrote to all general practices and online pharmacies reminding them of the importance of adhering to national guidelines when prescribing for infections such as gonorrhoea, in order to protect public health and reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Elizabeth Carlin, President of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said:

We understand that people are increasingly looking online for treatment of STIs. However, the ability to buy antibiotics online following a series of tick boxes and without full examination and specialist input, is a great concern both for individual patients, and the whole health community.

It is crucial that STIs, including syphilis and gonorrhoea, are treated appropriately in conjunction with full testing and examination. Unfortunately, there are a number of online pharmacies offering treatments for these conditions without appropriate knowledge of the patient. This poses a threat to our ability to effectively treat these STIs in the future, especially in the light of ongoing concerns around antimicrobial resistance.

We understand that sexual health can be embarrassing for people but would like to remind everyone that testing and treatment is free and completely confidential from sexual health clinics without referral and would encourage anyone with concerns to visit their local service.

Dr Elizabeth Carlin, BASHH President

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