World news wrapup: 12 March 2020

pharmacist phone call PSS support mental health

Robbed pharmacist plans to start support group; NHS warns of phone/fax scam; GP and pharmacist discuss pharmacist role

Edmonton, Canada: After his pharmacy was robbed in January, pharmacist Valaykumar Rajgor has decided to create a support group for other pharmacists in Alberta who have had similar experiences.

CBC Canada reports that just before closing time one day in January, two men wearing masks robbed the pharmacy at gunpoint, making a getaway with around CAD$350 (AUD$392) in cash and CAD$15,000 (AUD$17,928) in opioids. The experience had a significant effect on Mr Rajgor.

“As soon as it turns dark, I always think, ‘Please, God, make sure nothing happens today’,” he said. “I must admit that I’m a little shaky.”

He told CBC that he wants to start a support group so that pharmacists can give each other emotional support, in a move welcomed by the Alberta Pharmacists’ Association.

“Many of the victims are terrified to go back to work, or feel guilty that they have put themselves or employees or their stores at risk,” said its president, Darren Erickson.


Swansea, Wales: Health worker siblings have penned an opinion piece in the UK’s Pharmaceutical Journal urging change in the way the pharmacist role is discussed, saying the profession does not exist just as support for doctors.

Reem El-Sharkawi, a GP pharmacist at the Swansea Bay University Health Board, Swansea, and her sister Lamah El-Sharkawi, a GP partner at the practice, wrote the piece after reading reactions to Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement launching Pharmacy First, a minor ailments service.

“These communications send the message that the pharmacist is there purely to relieve ‘pressure on doctors,’ rather than the pharmacist being an expert in medication and well placed to treat patients with minor ailments and chronic conditions,” they write.

“Many of the tweets in response to Matt Hancock’s tweet were derogatory towards pharmacists, such as: ‘You may as well see a homeopath’ and ‘I’ll be going to my GP with my medical problems, not my pharmacist’.”

They also noted reactions to a pharmacist who appeared on a reality TV show, which included derogatory remarks about her science background.

“Do these examples represent how pharmacists are perceived by the general public?” the two asked.

“We must collaborate with other healthcare professionals, social media outlets, broadcasting corporations and the government if we are to truly help in ‘relieving pressure on doctors’ and dispelling the misconception of the pharmacist’s role.”


Cambridgeshire, England: Chemist + Druggist reports that at least three pharmacies have been targeted by phone and fax scammers purporting to be from the NHS.

Three Petersborough Halls the Chemist stores were called by a person with an American accent, who claimed they represented the NHS and attempted to convince staff to sign a contract which was faxed to the pharmacies.

The £1,000 (AUD$1,983) contract includes charges for advertising on, a website with no affiliation with the NHS.

Instead, it appears to be owned by a company called Media Service, which did not return C+D’s calls by the time of publication.

The NHS has now issued a warning about the scam to local pharmacies.


Navasota, Texas: A pharmacist has been arrested for stealing medicines from his workplace and allegedly ingesting them, reports KBTX.

Navasota police told the site that Anthony Ellis was fired from his job at the Brookshires pharmacy and has confessed to taking tramadol and ibuprofen from the store “on a daily basis for several months”.

Colleagues and patients expressed surprise at the arrest and allegations.

“With him having the characteristics and the qualities he holds as an amazing human being, it was really hard. It’s not right, it was very illegal. He shouldn’t have done it. Really, it’s devastating,” said colleague Catosha Lofton.

“Pain changes people, it really changes people and unfortunately, then they do things they would not normally do. So I’m very supportive of Anthony and I’m very sad for him, and I hope that he gets the relief that he needs,” said patient Dia Copeland.

Mr Ellis is now facing a third-degree felony charge.

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