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The next pharmacy scandal

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Pharmacy has had more than its fair shareof scandal recently.  It began with inappropriatesales of over-the-counter medicines, then moved on to several variants of thespecials procurement theme.  I thinkthere's another area pharmacy needs to be more vigilant of: patient confidentiality.

Take some examples of which therecould be many.  Imagine the son of one ofyour elderly patient's calls.  He'sconcerned his mom isn't taking her pills and wants to know what she last haddispensed and when.  Do you tell him?  Do you ask for confirmationof some patient details first?  Whichdetails and how many?  Do you need tospeak to the patient even if these are confirmed?  It might not be the patient's son on thephone.  The patient may not want theinformation shared.

Now imagine a lady collects hermedicines and asks if she can also take her husbands.  Do you give them to her?  Do you need permission from her husbandfirst?  It could be the husband has beenprescribed medicines that, for whatever reason, he wouldn't like his wife toknow about.

I'm not sure of the answers to thesequestions and would guess I'd get different answers from differentpharmacists.  This kind of case-by-caseapproach might be the right one, but it's not the one applied by all majorinstitutions.  Everyone will be familiarwith the gauntlet you have to pass before anyone from a call centre will speakto you.  GP practices also seem tooperate very rigorous data protection policies.

Reading the GPhCguidance on patient confidentiality doesn't make things much clearereither.  A more pragmatic piece writtenby the RPS would be helpful.

I've overheard examples of whatmight be bad practice in pharmacies.  I'vealso been given information about relatives without appropriatequestioning.  Ben Goldacre wrote in Bad Pharma about how pharmacists hadallegedly been sharing patient information with drug reps.

It's certainly something worth investigating.  If we don't, the press will gladly do it forus.

Follow me on Twitter @RanveerBassey

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