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Sector pushes for investigation into Pharmacy2U data-selling

RPS president Ash Soni has called for "swift and thorough investigation" into Pharmacy2U's conduct

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.

 


Should action be taken against Pharmacy2U?

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21 Comments
Question: 
What do you make of this story?

Call Me Cycnical, Senior Management

*This comment has been removed for breaching C+D's community principles

Rupinder Chana, Community pharmacist

This company sends mail to my patients worded in a way that my patients think that it is written by us, the local pharmacy. The patients then come and ask me about MY new service!! The ones who do not realise what is going on then use the services of P2U. How can this be right? I have written to the Pharmaceutical Society, and there is nothing they can do

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Pharmacy2U must have done a 'mail drop' in our area recently. I've had a load of calls from patients asking if it's from us? My response has been 'no, throw it in the bin', to which they reply 'ok'! They are trying to catch people on the cold which is clearly wrong on all levels. GPhC/RPS and anyone else - get this sorted please!

Small Pharm Owner, Other pharmacy staff

Likewise, we have had three mail shots since the start of the year. In each case elderly and mentally ill patients have inadvertently returned the form as in the words of our patients it looks like it's from the NHS and local doctors surgery. We unfortunately end up spending our valuable time explaining to people what the letter is about (without being slanderous) to which the response is always "I had no idea" or "what a disgusting practice" etc etc. we then spend more valuable time calling the surgery to request electronic prescriptions back as people need there medication urgently and renoninating patients! I can't see how sending out thousands of letters to attract 5 or 6 patients for an item each before they realise they have been duped and switch back is cost effective! Perhaps they get paid more per item then we do... Or perhaps they supplement there income by selling patients data!

Really? Wow, Superintendent Pharmacist

I'm sorry, there really needs to be a correction here. The RPS is no longer our regulator, so let the GPhC deal with whatever they want to and leave it there. Is Mr Lee even a RPS member? If so, and he is found to have done wrong, then the RPS should eject him publicly. However, till that happens I don't really want to hear anymore about it. I want the RPS to spend its efforts working forward for the profession and improving our lot and fighting for us!

Jacques Gholam, Community pharmacist

18,000 names!! "an isolated incident"?! what planet does Sue Sharpe live on? I've just had to go online again to IG toolkit to fill in the bleeding obvious , evertyhting was the same as last year which was more than adequate and the same this year is just aboy adequate. I needed to change my password on my nexphase and instead of simply re-jigging or changing a single digit as usual, I had to gow through the rigmarole of choosing and answering three stupid id questions. we'll all be having to sign the Offical Secrets Act next then Pharmacy 2 sell 18k bits of patient data for 5p each and Sue Sharpe calls it an isolated incident. pass me the sick bag!

John Urwin, Community pharmacist

Errrr....... Jacques, I think Sue Sharpe is trying to point out that most community pharmacies are not engaged in this sort of activity. Its called damage limitation.

David Walls, Community pharmacist

Our pharmacy has made several complaints to the GPhC regarding another online pharmacy company, regarding its advertising through Groupon for multiple packs (3) of Fluconazole (a P med) at a discounted price. This type of promotion flies in the face of the protocol within many health boards re minor ailment treatment of candida infection. Other multibuy offers on Groupon from the same company goes against advice by the RPharmS. We are constantly being urged to minimise stockpiling of patient's medicines at home but the GPhC constantly refuses to take action against these online "rogue" traders who bring the profession into disrepute. Kelvin Pharmacy Glasgow

Shamir Patel, Community pharmacist

David. I take great exception to being called a Rogue trader, when we are registered with the GPhC like yourselves and this under the code of ethics could be classed as a disparaging remark against our business. I am more than happy to justify the quantities of medication we sell and the GPhC inspector has visited us on each complaint you have made (causing a rise in our GPhC fees). The GPhC inspectors are more than happy with the process and protocols we adopt. FYI stockpiling applies to NHS prescription medication, not private purchases, hence hayfever tablets have now been licensed in 60s as a P Med and 30s are GSL so the supermarkets to sell until their heart is content! Director at Chemist-4-u

David Walls, Community pharmacist

Firstly I didn't mention the name of the company involved. Secondly you are not a supermarket therefore as a pharmacy have a professional responsibility to supply all medicines in a responsible way, including OTC medicines. Stockpiling applies to any medicine and represents an equal danger to the public. The RPS has often maintained that multibuy promotions are unprofessional. Are you aware of this? Are you a member? Maybe the GPhC are happy with your protocols but your professional body disapproves of this type of promotion and not one pharmacist I've spoken to thinks this sort of thing does our profession any favours.

John Randell, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

THIS IS THE SORT OF STRONG LEADERSHIP AND BACKBONE THE ROYAL PHARMACEUTICAL SOCIETY HAS BEEN MISSING WELLDONE FOR STANDING UPTO THIS CORPORATE GIANTS....IF THE RPC CONTINUES TO FIGHT FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN MORE PHARMACISTS WILL JOIN...... all caps because i feel so happy...

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Strong leadership ? Where? When they jump out of Boots' Back pocket then you can start chilling the champagne.

Dave Downham, Manager

Corporate giant? When it stands up to Alliance, then I'll believe it has a backbone.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

This company mail shots whole areas. I am all for some competition but they get responses from elderly/vulnerable patients who are easily confused into thinking it has come either from, or with the support of, the local GP or pharmacy. You might call that "taking advantage" but I couldn't possibly comment. For them to then sell on patient data which "patients can opt out of" is laughable. I would hope the GPhC will be taking a long hard look at their practices.

Sanjay Mistry (Pharmacybox), Community pharmacist

Damage already done... they will get away with it again no doubt.

Disillusioned Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

I don't understand how this is not in breach of information governance? I have to put labels with patient name and addresses in the shredder (a cross shredder no less!) and if I don't then I am in breach of IG so how is this ok?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Within data protection law may be legal, but that doesn't make it moral. Condemn this practice, it's not correct way a pharmaceutical company should hold themselves.

, Superintendent Pharmacist

This comment has been removed for breaching C+D's community principles

max falconer, Superintendent Pharmacist

It's even worse than that. They also own proscript..............

Mark Ashmore, Superintendent Pharmacist

P2U don't own Proscript EMIS does. Sean Riddell is however something like a Director of both

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Why is your email address appearing instead of name ???

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