The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has pledged to review the membership of any of its members involved in Pharmacy2U’s patient data-selling scandal.
Pharmacy2U – the UK’s largest NHS-approved online pharmacy business – was fined £130,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for selling 21,500 patient names and addresses to a marketing company, the government’s privacy watchdog announced on Tuesday (October 20).
Pharmacy2U managing director Daniel Lee “sincerely apologised” for the “regrettable incident”, which saw patient data sold to an Australian lottery company that the ICO said “deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable individuals”.
RPS president Ash Soni said the professional body will review the membership of any members “found guilty of wrongdoing” or subject to a complaint in relation to the incident through its membership committee.
The RPS "fully supports" the action the ICO took against the “isolated incident”, which Mr Soni stressed “does not reflect the wider profession”.
The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) told C+D it will “study” the ICO’s findings to see if it should take further action, and Mr Soni said the RPS is “pleased” that the regulator is “recognising the rightful concerns of patients and the public”.
Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive Sue Sharpe branded the sale of Pharmacy2U's patient information “disgraceful conduct” and called for “swift and appropriate regulatory action” to be taken against anyone involved in such activities.
Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott echoed calls for the data protection breach to be “vigorously investigated by the regulators”, and stressed that the guilty parties should be “punished appropriately”.
University of Birmingham deputy head of pharmacy Anthony Cox expressed concerns that the scandal could have a negative impact on the sector's calls for access to patient records. “Someone needs to throw the book hard at Pharmacy2U”, he wrote on Twitter.
Pharmacist Paul Gimson expressed similar concerns, arguing that the revelations “might hold [pharmacy] back” from gaining powers to amend patient records. The GPhC’s judgment on the case is “critical” and “will be a future indicator of the credibility of our profession”, he said.
A superintendent pharmacist posting on the C+D website as Kevin Pieterson labelled the scandal "as bad or worse" than the BBC's Inside Out investigation into illegal prescription-only medicines sales in pharmacies. Pharmacy2U's actions "did untold damage in the eyes of the public", they said, while pharmacist David Kent called for Pharmacy2U to be brought before the GPhC to "explain why they should remain on the register".