World news wrapup: 12 July 2018

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Pharmacist sentenced in biggest public health scandal in recent German history; British pharmacy technicians don’t want greater supervisory role; Boots branch shut following Novichok poisoning

Essen, Germany: A pharmacist was “simply acting out of greed” when he mixed tens of thousands of doses of cancer drugs with insufficient active ingredients, a German judge has noted.

A pharmacist from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was sentenced to 12 years in prison by presiding judge Johannes Hidding, reports DW News, which cites the case as the largest public health scandal in recent German history.

“We are convinced that at least 14,500 underdosed pharmaceutical products were prepared between 2012 and 2016,” Judge Hidding told the court.

At least 3,700 patients were affected.

The pharmacist charged full price for the diluted drugs, which cost public health insurers €17 million or more (AUD$26.89 million), the court heard.

“Luxury goods were extremely important to him,” the judge said of the convicted pharmacist.

The pharmacist was banned for life from practising pharmacy and ordered to forfeit €17 million in property to pay back the German state for damages.


Birmingham, UK: Most pharmacy technicians don’t want to take responsibility for supervising pharmacies, a new survey has found.

The Pharmacists’ Defence Association conducted the survey in March 2018, following the decision in principle by the government’s Rebalancing Medicines Legislation and Pharmacy Regulation program that pharmacy technicians could supervise other staff.

Under the in-principle agreement, technicians could also supply prescription-only medicines, pharmacy medicine and general sale medicines to patients, including in the absence of pharmacists.

But even those technicians who would consider taking these responsibilities would only do so if their jobs significantly changed, PDA says.

Eighty-six percent of the technicians surveyed said they would not supervise prescription-only medicine sales if a pharmacist was not there, while 80% would not supervise pharmacy or general medicine sales in the absence of a pharmacist. A further 87% would not supervise other pharmacy staff in the absence of a pharmacist.

And nearly a third – 30% – said they would not take on these responsibilities under any circumstances at all.

We don’t have pharmacy technicians in membership, but we still don’t want to see those colleagues placed in inappropriate situations,” said Paul Day, PDA Director. 

“We can see the problems in other public services where junior colleagues without the necessary skills or competence have been asked to fulfil professional roles as a cost-cutting exercise. It is bad for them and sees a reduction in standards.

“Just think of entire school classes being ‘taught’ by Teaching Assistants. In the case of pharmacy, an adverse effect on patient safety through changes to supervision would be simply unacceptable.”


Amesbury, Wiltshire: A pharmacy has been closed as officials investigate the poisoning of two people near Salisbury with the nerve agent Novichok.

Dawn Sturgess died in hospital on Sunday evening while her partner, Charlie Rowley, has reportedly regained consciousness.

Boots told Chemist + Druggist that the branch on Stonehenge Walk in Amesbury was closed due to a “precautionary measure at the request of the police, as part of their standard investigation protocol”.

Mr Rowley reportedly visited the Boots branch at around midday on Saturday, June 30, after Ms Sturgess had been taken to hospital but before he became ill himself.


US: CVS Health, Walgreens, Meijer and Walmart have all been named as a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion,” reports Drugstore News.

The annual Disability Equality Index, a joint initiative between the American Association of People with Disabilities and the US Business Leadership Network, measures KPIs across a range of areas.

Walgreens and CVS both commented on the inclusion, with CVS Health executive vice president and chief human resources officer Lisa Bisaccia saying that the organisation is “focused on breaking down the employment barriers that individuals with disabilities face”.

Walgreens Boots Alliance vice president and global chief diversity officer Carlos Cubia said that it was an honor to be acknowledged and that “Walgreens is proud to foster a disability inclusive culture through two programs to train and hire people with disabilities in our stores and distribution centers, where our team members work side-by-side to perform the same jobs for the same pay”.


Normandy, France: A British woman has been held on allegations of defrauding customers and running an “illegal pharmacy,” the Daily Mirror reports.

Lesley Hutchings, who lives in a remote area of Normandy, reportedly claims on her Facebook page that a cream, which she makes in her barn and sells for up to £40 (AUD$71) via Facebook, can help the body “fight off infections, repair and renew its cells and defend itself against pathogens and cancers”.

French authorities took her passport and emptied her bank accounts following the allegations, as well as removing paperwork and sealing up the barn, the Mirror reports.

The cream, MAFactive, was removed for tests, and Ms Hutchings says the results on two samples have been ruled “satisfactory” while a third is still undergoing analysis.

French police are also investigating Ms Hutchings’ association with a supplier of a cream named GcMAF, which his company allegedly claims to help the body become “cancer free”. Ms Hutchings denied that the creams were the same.

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