The UK’s largest NHS-approved online pharmacy has been fined £130,000 for unlawfully selling the personal details of 21,500 patients.

Pharmacy2U handed the confidential information to marketing outfit Alchemy Direct Media (UK) Ltd who then sold every 1000 records for £130 to three companies.

The data was sorted by age and gender and contained information about the possible health conditions of the patient, including Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and erectile dysfunction.

Pharmacy2U offer online services including electronic prescriptions, consultations with a GP and over the counter medicines as well as health and beauty products.

Patients and customers have to complete an online registration form containing their name, sex, date of birth, postal address, and contact details to use the facility.

Following an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the pharmacy was judged to have acted unfairly as the online form and privacy policy did not state they intended to sell details to third party organisations.

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), Ash Soni, said: "Patients should be assured that pharmacists abide by the same strict laws of data protection and patient confidentiality as all health professionals.

“This isolated incidence of wrongdoing has rightly been investigated by the ICO. The RPS fully supports the action the ICO has taken against Pharmacy2U.

“This case does not reflect the wider profession who, in our view, take the protection of patient data extremely seriously.”

Three thousand records were sold in December 2014 to an Australian lottery company that is now the subject of an international fraud investigation.

A Jersey-based health supplement company bought 13,000 files, while 5,500 were sent to a disability charity between November and December 2014.

The matter is under investigation by the General Pharmaceutical Council and the RPS will be reviewing members who are the subject of a complaint.