World News Wrapup: 10 August 2017

US compounding pharmacist pleads guilty to $192 million healthcare fraud; Brazil to close pharmacy program for low-income population; robot pharmacists rolled out in Dubai

Mississippi, US: A pharmacist in charge of a Mississippi compounding pharmacy has pleaded guilty to healthcare fraud charges, for his role in a scheme that defrauded private insurance companies out of at least $192 million in payments for medically unnecessary compounded medications.

The pharmacist, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and money laundering before US District Judge Keith Starrett, of the Southern District of Mississippi.

As part of his guilty plea, the defendant admitted that he had conspired with others to select compounded medication formulas based on profitability, rather than on effectiveness or patient need.

He further admitted that he conspired with co-owners of the pharmacy to circumvent fraud prevention measures, such as collecting copayments, so that patients were incentivised to receive, and continue to receive, medically unnecessary medications.


Brazil: Brazil’s Ministry of Health announced Monday that it will proceed with closing all 393 branches of the country’s low-cost ‘Popular Pharmacy’ program in the next two months.

According to Telesur TV, the program guaranteed free distribution (or up to 90% discount) on 112 different medications for chronic illnesses including hypertension, diabetes and anaemia.

More than 38 million people have reportedly benefited from the program since its inception in 2004.

Current Brazilian President Michel Temer has claimed that the country can save roughly US$100 million each year by ending the program.

States and municipalities will now be forced to purchase the same medications and stock them in privately run pharmacies, says Telesur TV.


Dubai, UAE: Robot pharmacists are being rolled out across Dubai Health Authority hospitals, with the aim of giving human pharmacists more time to counsel patients.

The UAE’s second smart pharmacy has just been launched at Dubai Hospital, which will use the robot to dispense medication using a bar code system, The National reports. The first such pharmacy was launched at Rashid Hospital in January.

The robot system can store up to 35,000 medicines and dispenses around 12 prescriptions in under a minute.

As well as reducing customer waiting time, the system is also hoped to give pharmacists the chance to focus on talking to customers about how to take their medicines.


Phoenix, Arizona, US: A man has been shot and killed by a pharmacy customer after he jumped the counter, waved a gun at bystanders and demanded opioids.

Fox News reports that the Walgreens was “full of chaos” when police arrived, with about a dozen employees and customers trying to hide from the suspect.

A police dog helped part the wounded suspect, who was hiding in a back area of the store, from his gun and police officers began to administer first aid.

However, the suspect, identified as Stephen Holguin, died at the scene.

The man who shot and killed the suspect was interviewed and released.

Fox explains that the state of Arizona’s “defense of third person” legislation permits the use of deadly force in cases where a suspect is threatening or harming another person.

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