World news wrapup: 10 December 2020


Grenfell Tower. Image: John Ó Néill, via Twitter

Insurance plan means pharmacy owner can’t use his own pharmacy; technician struck off after falsely claiming to be disaster victim; NZ pharmacies under scrutiny over cannabis prices

London, England: A pharmacy technician has been struck off the register after he falsely claimed to be a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire, claiming £75,000 (AUD$135,110) in victim support.

Chemist + Druggist reports that Daniel Steventon claimed to have been a resident of a one-bedroom flat in the tower, which erupted in flames in June 2017, killing 72 people.

However the flat in question was tenanted only by another man, who died in the fire.

Mr Steventon claimed “£75,225 worth of accommodation, emergency payments and other services” from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, C+D reports.

When RBKC investigated, the pharmacy technician said he had been paying the actual tenant £70 (AUD$126) cash weekly in return for being allowed to sleep on the floor, but said the pair had argued on the night of the fire, resulting in Mr Steventon sleeping in his car that night.

But he had told other charities that he was sleeping in his car after a relationship breakup with an ex-partner.

He pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and was later sentenced to three years and six months’ imprisonment.

Now, he has been removed from the register, with the UK’s regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), stating at a fitness-to-practise committee hearing that the offence was “serious and reprehensible” and that it had seen no signs of genuine remorse or insight.

 

New Zealand: Pharmacies are charging large margins on medicinal cannabis products, reports Stuff, resulting in frustration for patients.

Pharmacies can set their own prices for these medicines, reports journalist Tony Wall, as they are not government-subsidised – and because they cannot be advertised, as unapproved drugs, “there is no transparency around pricing”.

One pharmacy owner, Ian Edward, said that deciding on a fair price had caused some difficulty.

“It was a rare product for us to access in the first place, we were absolutely flying blind,” he told Stuff.

“You’ve got variable products coming on to the market, at variable prices for variable quantities, none of which have existed probably two years ago – everything’s changing. It creates confusion for everybody.

“The question from our industry’s point of view is, what is a reasonable price to put on to it – and there is no answer to that.”

The Pharmacy Guild and Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand have, according to Pharmacy Today, disputed the claims of “price gouging”.

 

North Carolina, USA: Pharmacists are speaking out in the press about the practises of “steering” and other issues around the use of pharmacy benefit managers, urging greater transparency and protection for independent pharmacies.

Penny S Shelton, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Pharmacists, penned a piece in the Fayetteville Observer in which she laments the tale of a Greenville man who recently learned that his pharmacy was no longer “in network,” meaning he would have to choose a new one.

“He was steered to a limited list of mostly big-box chain pharmacies, which would be a huge change for this man, who has several complex medical conditions and is thus very invested in his close relationship with his local independent pharmacist,” she wrote.

“This is not an unusual story for North Carolinians.

“Although the patient would prefer to use his local independent pharmacy, it becomes more difficult to do so since at least two major health plans doing business in our state no longer have any independent pharmacies in their 2021 networks.”

She said the Association would continue to urge legislators to protect small pharmacies and restore choice.

Meanwhile Jim Blount, owner of Blount’s Mututal Drugs in Edenton, also told the Daily Advance that legislators needed to protect independent pharmacies, urging them to pass a proposed bill which would place greater scrutiny on pharmacy benefit managers.

He said that he and his wife own a pharmacy – but under their insurance plan, was not allowed to use it, and had to change plans if they wanted to do so.

“There are people who want to be here and they should be able to be here without penalty,” Mr Blount said.

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