World news wrapup: 1 February 2018

Tide pods. Image: Twitter.
Tide pods. Image: Twitter.

Advice for pharmacists on the “Tide Pod Challenge”; UK cracks down on drug diversion network; pharmacists honoured for bravery

US: American pharmacy magazine Pharmacy Times has published advice for pharmacists regarding the “Tide Pod Challenge”, a dare game meme which has seen young people posting videos of themselves eating the laundry pods on social media.

Jennifer Gershman writes in the Times that while social media sites are taking down the videos – which have shown teenagers “chewing and gagging on the pods and even cooking them” – the meme is ongoing.

Ms Gershman cites American Association of Poison Control Centers data which shows intentional ingestion of single load laundry packets has risen, with 53 cases of intentional ingestion in 2016 and 2017, and 119 since the beginning of 2018.

“Exposures are likely even higher as some may not be reported to the AAPCC.”

She says that “pharmacists can create poison prevention programs in high schools and colleges to help raise awareness on the health consequences of ingesting Tide Pods. 

“Parents of teens and young children should be educated to avoid using the pods and similar products and stick with regular detergent. If the single-load laundry packets continue to be used, then they should be locked away and kept out of reach of children and teenagers.”


UK: Five pharmacists have been suspended by the UK’s pharmacy regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council, following an investigation into drug diversion

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has been investigating what it calls an “extensive network of criminality” including pharmacies which divert drugs into the black market.

The Independent reports that the network involves gangs who bribe pharmacists and wholesalers into giving them millions of pounds worth of medicines. Pharmacists and wholesalers could also over-order stock and then sell the rest online without a prescription.

A MHRA report warns the problem is leaving vulnerable people at serious risk of harm.

“We have already taken action to suspend five pharmacists under interim orders and are actively reviewing at each stage of the investigations whether we need to take further action to protect the public,” said Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of General Pharmaceutical Council.

Drugs involved include diazepam, nitrazepam, temazepam, zopiclone, zolpidem, pregabalin, gabapentin and tramadol in “all strengths, in tablet form,” the MHRA says.


Belfast, Northern Ireland: The two pharmacists who were stabbed in 2017 during an attempted robbery have been honoured for their bravery, the Irish News reports.

Paul McDonagh and Peter Wright were both injured during the robbery at the James McDonagh Pharmacy, with one of the pharmacists stabbed in the arm, and the other in the chest.

Both were back at work the next day.

At this week’s Pharmacy in Focus Awards, the two were presented with the Pharmacy Hero award.

Mr McDonagh said that he had hoped to help other pharmacists facing violence in their stores.

The attack raised awareness of the risks faced by pharmacists and staff, as well as sparking the relaunch of a “zero tolerance” campaign and support for pharmacy regarding violence.

“I wanted to publicise what had happened in order to bring something positive out of this experience,” said Mr McDonagh.


Bihar, India: The Bihar Chemists and Druggists Association is lobbying to relax the requirement that a pharmacy (or medical shop) have a pharmacist present, warning that its enforcement is likely to encourage illegal sales of medicines.

The Association’s president, Parsan Kumar Singh, recently met with ministers to explain that the state of Patna has only about 2,500 to 3000 pharmacists, the Telegraph India reports.

However the state has around 30,000 medical shops.

The recent digitisation of pharmacies means it is now easier to track whether or not a shop has its own pharmacist, and thus makes a crackdown more likely.

“This would result in the closure of many medicine shops and pharmacies would be termed illegal on any given day. When there is acute shortage of pharmacists in the state, how can each medicine shop engage one pharmacist?” asked Parsan.

“Right now one pharmacist is working with five to six medicine shops but after computerisation, one pharmacist can no longer work with more than one shop. If a large number of medicine shops are closed in the state, eventually there would be medicine crisis and illegal medicine shops would start operating in the state, which would sell drugs without valid licence and the quality of drugs to be sold by them might even be compromised.”

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