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Sector pushes for investigation into Pharmacy2U data-selling

Industry leaders including RPS president Ash Soni have condemned the online pharmacy for selling 18,000 patient names and addresses to a marketing company last year

Pharmacy organisations have called for an investigation into Pharmacy2U's sale of patient information to a marketing company.

Representative bodies including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and PSNC condemned the online pharmacy business for selling 18,000 patient names and postal addresses to data handling company Alchemy Direct Media, and stressed it did not reflect practices within the sector.

Pharmacy2U told C+D last week (April 1) that the sale of data was part of a “small-scale” trial that was “in line with" data protection and the Information Commissioner's Office guidelines, and stressed that no medical or prescription information had been released. The company had sold the data at a "normal commercial rate", it said.

Selling customer data for marketing purposes was a “widespread practice within business and also government”, but Pharmacy2U wished to “reassure” patients it would no longer sell data to third parties in response to public concern, it said.

'An isolated case'

But RPS president Ash Soni told C+D on Tuesday (April 7) that Pharmacy2U’s actions required a “swift and thorough investigation”. The “isolated allegations of wrongdoing” levelled at the company did not reflect the profession as a whole, which took the protection of patient information “extremely seriously”, he stressed.

PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe said the allegations represented “an isolated case” in the profession, which worked hard to offer "convenient, safe and confidential services and advice". Patients could be “confident” that pharmacists would take care of their private information, she added.

Pharmacy Voice told C+D any potential breach of data protection should be “vigorously investigated”. Maintaining the confidentiality of patient data was a “legal and ethical requirement” for pharmacists, and patients should be guaranteed their details were not given to third parties unless they had “specifically provided consent”, it said.

Pharmacy2U told C+D that its privacy policy prior to April 2015 had stated it would "occasionally" make customers' details available to third party marketing companies, although customers could choose to opt out of this.

Pharmacy2U told C+D it would work with the Information Commissioner's Office to review its privacy policy, and had also been in contact with the General Pharmaceutical Council and the NHS to discuss the matter.


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