World news wrapup: 13 April 2017

James McDonagh pharmacy Belfast

We take a look at pharmacy news from around the world

Christchurch, New Zealand: A Christchurch pharmacist has been censured and fined for professional misconduct after he failed to admit a customer had been given the wrong drug. reports that Terrence Zelcer, who has worked as a pharmacist for over 30 years with an unblemished record, discovered in December 2013 that the wrong medicine had been given to a 79-year-old patient a couple of months earlier.

The patient was a vulnerable person with multiple health problems, including having had a kidney transplant in 1999. He was taking several medicines including an immunosuppressant to prevent his body rejecting the kidney.

In October 2013 a pharmacy technician gave the patient another drug used in combination chemotherapy regimes instead, putting him at risk of serious infection as well as kidney rejection.

Mr Zelcer did not notice the error until the customer came back a couple of months later and asked him why the pills he had received in October were different to usual. By this time he had taken 35 tablets of the wrong drug, missing out on his immunosuppressant medication for two and a half weeks.

But when Mr Zelcer realised the error, he misled the patient, telling him the drug had been discontinued and that he should resume taking his other tablets instead. He did not tell him he had been given the wrong medicine, and put the bottle containing the wrong medicine in the return unwanted medicines bag.

The patient underwent urgent blood tests after he reported the issue and sought help from his GP, and was found to be unharmed.


Montevideo, Uruguay: Uruguay is set to become the first country in the world to permit recreational marijuana to be sold in pharmacies.

Yahoo news reports that this is the last step in fully legalising marijuana in Uruguay: in 2013 the country passed legislation that would eventually legalise the production, sale and consumption of the drug.

There has been uncertainty as to when pharmacies would begin selling it, but President Tabaré Vázquez has now announced that sales will commence in July.

To buy marijuana from pharmacies, users must sign up for a national registry. Their use will be capped at a monthly maximum purchase of 40 grams.

A gram of marijuana will cost $1.30, and the drug will be sold in packets of five or 10 grams.

Only citizens and permanent residents of Uruguay will be eligible to purchase it.


Belfast, Northern Ireland: A man has been charged with attempted murder after a pharmacist was stabbed in the chest.

Two pharmacists – Peter Wright and Paul McDonagh – were injured in the attack, in which a man entered the James McDonagh pharmacy at a busy time of the morning and demanded Tramadol.

Mr Wright was stabbed in the chest while Mr McDonagh suffered cuts to his arm. Neither injury was life-threatening.

This was not the first time the pharmacy had been targeted, the Irish News reports, but was the first in which such violence has been used.

Local Sinn Féin councillor Steven Corr said that “the massive increase in prescription drug abuse is the bane of west Belfast, and we need to invest in more programs to combat this problem.”

He commended the bravery of the staff.

A 26-year-old man was charged with attempted murder, grievous bodily harm with intent, two counts of robbery, two counts of attempted robbery and four counts of possession of an offensive weapon with intent to commit an indictable offence and assault on police.


UK: The LloydsPharmacy chain expects each branch to reduce staff levels by “around five hours per week” to meet “payroll challenges”, Chemist + Druggist reports.

According to the British pharmacists’ union, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association, several members have been in touch to discuss LloydsPharmacy expectations that employees voluntarily agree to reduce their working hours.

LloydsPharmacy’s head of central operations, Richard James, told C+D that “good business practice requires us to respond to market factors and changing customer behaviour.”

LloydsPharmacy “regularly reviews staffing levels to ensure our colleagues are available at the best time, in the best place for our customers”, Mr James said.

“These reviews may require us to increase or decrease hours in our stores.”

The union says it is concerned that this reduction in staffing hours could increase workloads for remaining pharmacy staff and compromise patient safety.


Ireland: Ireland’s Health Information and Quality Authority is concerned that vaping may act as a “gateway” to traditional tobacco cigarettes, the Irish Examiner reports.

As e-cigarettes become more socially acceptable, people who have never smoked may take up vaping, it says.

HIQA is currently investigating the cost effectiveness of e-cigarettes in helping people quit smoking, the first authority in the EU to do so. It has advised Ireland’s Health Minister to wait for the results of trials on vaping before making a decision on whether to recommend them, however.

It says that widespread promotion of e-cigarettes by health professionals could normalise nicotine consumption or act as a gateway for tobacco for new generations of people who have not smoked before.

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