Our weekly wrapup of pharmacy news from around the world
London, UK: Following a BBC program which revealed UK pharmacists illegally selling prescription drugs, the UK’s pharmacy regulator is seeking to increase its powers of surveillance.
The BBC reported that nine pharmacists have been banned from practice after its 2012 investigation, during which its journalists were illegally sold Valium and opiates at seven London pharmacies.
One pharmacist, Chawan Shaida, sold Valium to the BBC without prescription, but later claimed this was an isolated incident that did no harm.
“He did it for personal gain. He neglected the interests of patients. The public will be shocked by Mr Shaida’s behaviour,” the General Pharmaceutical Council said.
Another pharmacist, Hussain Jamal Rasool, sold a morphine-containing medicine and told the buyer he could consume as much as he wanted.
A third, Rafif Sarheed, was caught on surveillance falsifying documentation regarding the illegal sale of diazepam.
The General Pharmaceutical Council is seeking to increase its powers of investigation.
“The GPhC does not currently have the legal powers to authorise the use of directed surveillance or covert human intelligence sources,” it says in a statement.
“We want to make sure that we have all the tools we need to carry out a thorough and proactive investigation into serious concerns so that we can protect patients.
“That is why, following a recommendation by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners in 2013, we sought new legal powers to use directed surveillance and covert human intelligence sources during investigations into serious concerns about registered pharmacies or pharmacy professionals.”
This would require a change in legislation to enable these powers which the GPhC is seeking.
“We hope to be given the powers to use directed surveillance in the future but we are currently not seeking powers to use covert human intelligence sources,” it says.
Baltimore, Maryland: During the April 2015 riots in Baltimore, US, images of the Penn-North CVS/Pharmacy being burned and looted were beamed around the world.
Now, the pharmacy which for many became a symbol of the riots and a backdrop to protests has reopened.
Store manager Haywood McMorris told the Baltimore Sun that he knew around 70% of the customers and had been pleased to welcome them back.
“I had a gut feeling that God was with us,” McMorris told the Sun. “I knew we were going to open the store back up.”
The riots were sparked in protest at the death in custody by spinal cord injury of local man Freddie Gray.
UK: British consumers are using pharmacy vaccinations as an “excuse” not to be vaccinated by their GP, according to a senior member of the British Medical Association.
Chemist+Druggist reports that Dr Bill Beeby, deputy chair of the BMA’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee, told the publication that patients say “‘I’m going to have it done at my pharmacy’, and they just slip through our fingers’.”
“They don’t go to the pharmacy,” he says. “The pharmacy doesn’t have the responsibility to chase them up – we’re chasing them up.”
GPs and pharmacists are “fishing in the same pond” over flu vaccination, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP committee, told C+D. He says that doctors will remain worried about the pharmacy flu service until they see a “demonstrable increase in overall uptake”.
“Until we see that, practices will be concerned that all that’s happening is [GPs and pharmacists are] fishing in the same pond,” he says.
New Jersey, US: Suspected drug tampering by a pharmacist may have exposed 213 patients to blood-borne disease including HIV, Drug Topics reports.
The Shore Medical Center of Somers Point in New Jersey is investigating whether the patients, who received IV medication in 2013 and 2014, could have contracted HIV or hepatitis B or C.
A spokesperson for the Center said that its safety protocol identified “inconsistencies” in the work of the former employee, a pharmacist who was immediately suspended and then terminated following an investigation.
The pharmacist, Frederick P. McLeish, has been suspended and charged with drug tampering, theft by unlawful taking, and possession of a controlled dangerous substance. He is alleged to have stolen morphine from vials, replacing it with a saline solution, for his personal use.
Edinburgh, UK: A pharmacist who abused a patient in a Facebook rant, calling her a “f***tard” and “total retard” has been given a warning by the UK’s General Pharmaceutical Council.
The woman had complained after attempting to buy pain medication at the pharmacy for her father, who had cancer and who has since died. The pain relief medicine was out of stock.
“So tonight some f***tard commented on Facebook how us at Calder Pharmacy were not doing our jobs properly or being professional,” the pharmacist, Charles Shanks, wrote.
“Sorry deary but no matter how good we are we cannot conjure up drugs we don’t have in stock from f***ing fresh air.
“Good to see you went total retard tonight.”
The GPhC has investigated the incident and issued Shanks with a warning, but no restrictions on his ability to practise.
Devon, UK: A pharmacist is being credited with saving the lives of a family who had been unwittingly breathing in gas for weeks, ITV News reports.
The family, Mark White, Sarah Evans and their two young children, had recently moved into a new home and begun feeling unwell.
A trip to the pharmacy resulted in the pharmacist, Sarah Grant, noticing that Evans looked “incredibly grey” and disoriented.
She spoke to both parents and correctly identified the problem as gas or carbon monoxide poisoning.
A kitchen gas leak was later identified and fixed.
“Who knows what would have happened if the pharmacist had not spotted the signs?” White told ITV.
“We could have sat there for weeks still breathing in the gas, with Sarah still misdiagnosed—or the house could have blown up.”