Walgreens readies for Hurricane Michael; crisis in Zimbabwe as drugs run out and pharmacies demand cash; UK pharmacy stakeholders call for better planning

Gulf Coast, US: As Hurricane Michael threatens parts of the south-eastern US including Florida and the Carolinas, Walgreens has advised that it is taking “proactive measures” to help customers, team members and communities.

The steps it is taking include highlighting the importance of prescription preparedness for pharmacy patients in areas likely to be impacted. It is encouraging patients to carry any current medications, including empty bottles, in a waterproof bag to help pharmacy staff refill scripts.

The chain is also staging temporary mobile pharmacies near the region, that can be deployed, if necessary, to drugstores that may be damaged or unable to reopen in a timely manner. It is also staging emergency power generators to deploy to drugstores if necessary.

Walgreens also says it will be evaluating its philanthropic response immediately after the hurricane.

“We urge our patients and customers to follow state of emergency directives and if necessary get to a safe location first and then refill medications at the nearest pharmacy,” said Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of operations.

“Walgreens will continue to support the health and wellness needs of our customers and communities facing this dangerous storm.

“We have a dedicated team in our Emergency Operations Center working to ensure our team members in the storm’s path remain safe and are preparing to rapidly restore operations in order to best serve our patients and communities.”

 

Harare, Zimbabwe: Health professionals in Zimbabwe are worried about the growth in pharmacies rejecting medical aid cards produced by patients with medical insurance and instead forcing them to pay cash for medicines.

Daily News Live reports that difficult economic conditions are driving the cash grab, as well as a crisis in access to a number of vital medications.

Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights executive director Calvin Fambirai said pharmacies are importing medicines using cash largely obtained from the black market in US dollars and other desirable currencies.

“Most medical insurance cards were, as of October 5, being rejected by most pharmacies whilst on the other hand basic antibiotics like azithromycin have gone up to $47 for a three-day course.” It is unclear which currency this was in.

“Most pharmacies are also running out of emergency medicines and the situation in public hospitals is deteriorating by each day,” Dr Fambirai said.

Zimbabwe is also running out of medicines including painkillers, tuberculosis, cancer and hypertension treatments.

 

UK: A group of pharmacy organisations have called for better recognition, clearer planning and more innovation in the way community pharmacy services are funded and regulated.

The Company Chemists’ Association, which represents major chains as well as the National Pharmacy Association, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, was responding to an NHS discussion paper, the Pharmaceutical Journal reports.

The sector needs a “future-proof” funding model to let pharmacy best contribute to the NHS, the CCA says.

“Community pharmacy funding and governance must be both cost effective for the NHS and contractors to deliver,” said Malcom Harrison, chief executive of the CCA.

“Otherwise patients and the public will have fewer services and we will have missed an opportunity to create new ones that best meet people’s current and future health and wellbeing needs”.

 

Boston, US: The number of independent community pharmacies in the US has dropped slightly between 2017 and 2018, a new report has found – but they still continue to represent 35% of the retail pharmacy space.

The Pharmacy Times reports that the 2018 NCPA Digest, which was released at the National Community Pharmacists Association’s Annual Convention in Boston, also noted a slight reduction in the number of community pharmacies, from 22,041 in 2017 down to 21,909 in 2018.

However, the largest portion of these community pharmacies – three-quarters of them – were in areas with a population of less than 50,000.

In terms of services, 79% provide medication therapy management; 70% immunizations; and 57% blood pressure monitoring.

“As evidenced in the latest NCPA Digest, independent community pharmacies continue to represent an indispensable portion of pharmacies in the United States and are a valued piece of the health care puzzle, especially for patients in underserved communities,” said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey.

“It’s a credit to independent pharmacists’ hands-on role in patient care, the quality of their services, and their ongoing civic, social, and economic engagement in their communities.”