World news wrapup: 1 April 2021


Irish pharmacists pile into vaccination centre and abuse workers; US pharmacist turns TikTok sleuth on  vaccination faking; appeal to examine whether UK pharmacist’s comments were antisemitic

Cork, Ireland: COVID-19 vaccination at the Páirc Uí Chaoimh stadium in Cork was disrupted this week when a “large” group of angry pharmacists arrived and demanded that they be vaccinated, with some becoming abusive.

Extra.ie reports that a significant percentage of pharmacists in Ireland have been allocated to “cohort six,” with the first four cohorts including frontline health workers, people aged over 70 and those aged 16 to 70 with applicable health conditions.

A pharmacist told reporter Craig Hughes that a pharmacist who had received an appointment to be vaccinated posted details on a pharmacy WhatsApp group.

An exchange followed in which pharmacists became angry about lack of information about when they would receive the vaccine.

When the group of pharmacists arrived at the stadium, Health Service Executive vaccine liaison for pharmacists Louise Creed sent an urgent email to members of the profession in Cork, telling them to leave the venue.

She said that despite what pharmacists thought they had been told on WhatsApp, they would need to wait until they had been given their own appointment.

“I am disappointed to hear that some of these were abusive to vaccination staff and refused to leave unless they were vaccinated,” she wrote.

“Vaccination staff were very upset by this. The attendance of a large amount of people without appointments has disrupted the running of the clinic and placed extra unnecessary stress on vaccinators.”

 

Illinois, US: A pharmacist has reported a pharmacy technician who posted a TikTok in which she boasted about stealing COVID-19 vaccination cards from her place of work.

Yahoo! reports via the Daily Beast that TikTok user hann.brooke95 wrote in a comment about another person’s post about fake cards that “I work at a pharmacy and grabbed blank ones for me and my hubby”.

TikTok users Savannah Sparks and Becca Walker then began to investigate. Ms Sparks is a pharmacist in Biloxi, Mississippi.

They investigated the return address label shown and found public records for Hannah Brooke Hutchinson, who held registration as a pharmacy technician in Illinois. Ms Sparks then reported her to the Illinois Board of Pharmacy.

Ms Hutchinson has since deleted her TikTok, but before doing so posted, “Stop hating on me! I don’t care what any of you think. I did what is best for my husband and I.”

Ms Sparks said that she did not want a person who would do such a thing involved with the profession.

“Very sick people come into pharmacies, so when you have a pharmacy employee lying about being vaccinated, everyone there is at risk,” she said.

Ms Sparks and Ms Walker continue to investigate the matter, and to date have posted several TikToks taking issue with health workers who have discussed forging, or attempting to forge, the cards.

 

Flushing NYC, New York: A pharmacist has been accused of paying for his new 2020 Porsche Taycan by defrauding Medicaid, prosecutors say.

Robert Sabet was arrested only months after he bought the car, after he allegedly billed Medicare and Medicaid for prescription medicines that had not been required or ordered by his customers, the Queens Chronicle reports.

The indictment alleges that with co-offenders, the Flushing pharmacist submitted claims to the two federal health cover programs for expensive branded medicines while he then dispensed generics, beginning in 2016.

He began doing so, prosecutors allege, through his first pharmacy, Brooklyn Chemists in Marine Park, and from 2019 also through Lucky Care in Flushing, which he bought that year.

He also allegedly ordered scripts for resale to doctors, offering access to customer Medicare and Medicaid information in exchange.

According to the FBI, the scheme netted him at least US$4.2 million (more than AUD$5.5 million).

He has been charged with conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States by paying kickbacks and bribes in connection with the provision of healthcare services, and unlawfully spending the proceeds of his fraud.

 

UK: The UK’s Professional Standards Authority is looking to overturn a recent decision to warn a pharmacist who was found to have uttered anti-Semitic remarks at a 2017 rally.

Nazim Hussain Ali reportedly told attendees of the Al Quds Day rally in June 2017 that the “Zionist supporters of the Tory Party” were “responsible for the murder of the people in Grenfell [Tower]”.

A General Pharmaceutical Council Fitness to Practise committee found that the remarks were offensive and had constituted serious misconduct.

It found the pharmacist impaired on the public interest ground, reports the Pharmaceutical Journal, but also said most reasonable people, considering the context, would not view the comments as antisemitic.

It issued the pharmacist with a warning that his conduct “must at all times avoid undermining the reputation of the profession, or the reputation of the regulator, and must uphold the required standards of the pharmacy profession”.

The PSA is now filing an appeal against the decision, saying it was concerned the Committee had erred in its approach.

Earlier this year it told Pharmacy magazine that it felt the decision could be “insufficient to protect the public”.

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