How looting affects pharmacy patients; UK pharmacists left out of COVID-19 support; “unfathomable collision of demand” for pharmacy in NZ’s Stage Four lockdown
Van Nuys, California: CBSN Los Angeles has reported on the story of the Super Discount Pharmacy in the Van Nuys district of LA, which was filmed being looted during the current unrest in the United States.
Across the US, protesters have taken to the streets to condemn institutional racism after the death in Minneapolis police custody of black man George Floyd. One police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder after he kneeled on Mr Floyd’s neck for upwards of eight minutes, killing him. Significant looting has taken place alongside the protests.
The owner of the Super Discount Pharmacy, who chose to be identified only as Olga, told CBSN that while not wanting to shame the looters, she wanted to speak about the plight of patients, particularly those who are elderly and on low incomes, who get their medicines from her store.
“[They are] patients that can’t come out of their house easily, patients that depend on their extended family, patients that depend on us for delivery,” Olga told CBSN.
She said that some of the medicine which was stolen during the looting was life-saving.
CBSN also spoke to bystander Kimberlin Tortoledo, who had taken part in a Black Lives Matter protest and who stopped to help the pharmacy clean up damage and bloodstains left after looters injured themselves on broken glass.
“For something to be looted like this, they don’t realize how many people aren’t going to be able to receive their medication,” Ms Tortoledo said.
UK: The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that pharmacists have very clearly been left out of support services for health professions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It spoke exclusively to Jo Churchill, England’s Pharmacy Minister, who said that there was a “quite glaring” gap in the supports offered to pharmacists and that a permanent service to support the profession could be under consideration.
Mental health support has been offered to health professionals including GPs and dentists, and the Journal reports that Ms Churchill’s comments could “indicate a change of heart in government over extending the mental health support already offered to GPs and dentists, to pharmacists, after witnessing their contribution during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Ms Churchill said that “As we come out of these times, it’s part of the conversation as to how we look after people and maintain people’s physical and mental health”.
“People are tired; it’s evident from some of the letters that I’ve had from pharmacists explaining what their daily workload has been like. It’s important that we look at new systems of working, what nobody has missed and what positives we’ve got.”
She noted that while GPs have a dedicated helpline, support for pharmacists is being provided by a small charity-based helpline.
Bengaluru, India: The New Indian Express has reported on widespread confusion over the sale of paracetamol and antihistamines, with pharmacies reportedly having been given direction not to sell them without a prescription.
The Express spoke to one pharmacist who said that, “We received instructions from the government a fortnight ago not to sell paracetamol, anti-cold and anti allergy medicines without prescription and we are following the rules”.
Another pharmacist said that they were selling “at least 50 sheets” of a paracetamol product every day until the government made the directive.
However, Bala Chauhan reports that when the Express contacted the Drug Controller’s office, it said that no such directive had been given to pharmacies.
However a spokesperson did say that the authority is “monitoring the sale of paracetamol and anti cold drugs to help track the spread of Covid-19 infection”.
He said that “we must make all essential drugs available to people without any difficulty,” adding that there may have been additional guidelines issued to pharmacies about OTC paracetamol and antihistamines by representatives of the National Disaster Management Authority.
New Zealand: Pharmacy experienced an “unfathomable collision of demand” during the Stage Four lockdown in New Zealand, says one pharmacist.
The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand has highlighted the experience of two community pharmacists, Bronwen Shepherd from Wellington and Aleisha Whyte from Canterbury, while the lockdown was in place.
The Stage Four lockdown meant that community pharmacy was one of only very few essential services which were allowed to continue operating.
“As the majority of the entire health system retreated, community pharmacy forged further into the frontlines,” said Ms Shepherd.
“During the lockdown, hospitals reduced activity to essential services, and in primary care, allied health and general practice shifted to mostly virtual services.
“Within this context, community pharmacy experienced an unfathomable collision of demand due to the inaccessibility of other health services, the timing of the arrival of influenza vaccinations and increased prescription demand.
“My hope is that the COVID-19 crisis acts as a forcing mechanism to compel innovation, new levels of cooperation, rapid advances in technology, policy, and procedures.
“However, we also need to remember and most importantly—safeguard—the services and qualities that community already possess, that this current crisis has made more visible.
“If this crisis is a messenger, surely our health leadership have now perceived and experienced community pharmacy as its best strategic partner.”
Ms Whyte said that, “A lot of general practitioners had shut their doors, so more people utilised pharmacy to receive flu vaccination this year”.
“We extended our hours for flu clinics, through to 8pm some nights. This allowed us to vaccinate a larger proportion of vulnerable populations and ensure appropriate social distancing.
“It was positive to see the eligibility criteria open up to allow pharmacists to provide more funded flu vaccinations.
“Feedback from patients was supportive of pharmacists providing funded flu vaccinations, as we are local, in the community and easy to access.”