World news wrapup: 14 April 2016


Walgreens pharmacist with naloxone
A US pharmacist with naloxone kit. Image: Walgreens

Our wrapup of pharmacy news from around the world

Ottawa, Canada – the Canadian Pharmacists Association has announced that pharmacists should play a frontline role in patient management and dispensing medical marijuana.

In 2013, the CPhA had told Health Canada that while it sympathised with patients with pain, terminal or chronic conditions, it was concerned that there was not sufficient evidence to support its use and that that while it would allow pharmacists to dispense any medical marijuana in the future, “we are not aware if many pharmacies would be prepared to do this, and many P/T governments and pharmacy regulatory authorities may not allow this”.

It was also concerned about the possibility of pharmacy robberies.

Now, the CPhA says that a frontline role for pharmacists would be needed to ensure that patients receive timely, appropriate access, education and clinical oversight.

“Pharmacists are medication experts and play a critical role in the management and monitoring of medication to ensure safe and optimal use,” said Phil Emberley, Director of Professional Affairs, Canadian Pharmacists Association. “And it is patient safety that is ultimately at the heart of CPhA’s decision to update its position on the role of pharmacists in the management and dispensing of medical marijuana.”

A national survey conducted by Abacus Data for CPhA showed that 73% of respondents agree medical marijuana should be treated like other medicines and only available through a pharmacy.

 

Illinois, USWalgreens has announced that it has made the potentially life-saving opioid antidote naloxone available over the counter in all of its Pennsylvania pharmacies, in accordance with state pharmacy regulations.

“By making naloxone available without a prescription, we are making it easier for Pennsylvania families and caregivers to help their loved ones by having it on hand in case it’s needed,” says Kimberly Treece, Walgreens Regional Vice President in Pennsylvania.

“As a pharmacy we are here to help people, and we are committed to making naloxone more accessible in the communities we serve.”

In February, Walgreens announced plans to make naloxone available without a prescription in 35 states and Washington D.C. in accordance with each state’s pharmacy regulations. In states where a prescription is required, the group plans to work with regulators to help update rules to allow for the medicine’s dispensing without prescription.

Since its original announcement about naloxone, Walgreens has made the medication available without a prescription at its pharmacies throughout the states of New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Indiana and Ohio, and has now expanded that access to Pennsylvania. When implementation of the program is complete, naloxone will be available without a prescription in more than 5,800 of Walgreens nearly 8,200 stores.

Image courtesy Walgreens

 

California, US – Women in California can now obtain birth control directly from their pharmacies, making the state the second in the US after Oregon to permit pharmacists to prescribe it – but according to the Orange County Register and the Associated Press, it’s not happening in practice.

The law went into effect on April 1, but by April 11 the outlet had contacted a dozen local pharmacies to find none had put it into practice. Some said they planned to, but hadn’t begun yet because pharmacists require certification in order to prescribe birth control.

“I heard about it a long time ago, then kind of forgot about it,” one pharmacist said.

Kathleen Hill-Besinque, associate professor of USC School of Pharmacy, said a lot of work is being done “to get people up and moving” and that she is fielding calls from former pharmacy students and colleagues keen to get started.

 

UK – The UK’s largest independent pharmacy chain, Well, is increasing pay for thousands of its staff, with many set to receive a raise of up to 10%.

Healthcare assistants will be given a starting rate rising to £7.38 an hour, 18p over the National Living Wage. Drivers pay will rise to £7.33 an hour.

“We’ve benchmarked ourselves against the pharmacy and retail markets and are investing in colleagues who are behind the national average,” says HR director Tracy Barton.

“Given the challenges that are out there in the pharmacy sector, we will need our colleagues to play a vital role in helping us deliver our ambitious growth plans and continue delivering expert advice and service to our customers and within our communities.”

 

Ireland – Irish consumers are being encouraged to ask their pharmacists for sexual health and contraception advice.

The campaign, launched by the Irish Pharmacy Union, HSE Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme and the Irish Family Planning Association, is aimed at helping reduce stigma around sexual health and highlight the dangers associated with a recent rise in infections: these have risen from 3,361 notifications in 1995 to 12,626 in 2014.

“The incidence of STIs is on the rise and it is critical that people take steps to protect their health and get tested,” says IPU President Kathy Maher.

80% of STIs are symptomless. For that reason, even if you feel healthy, if you have had unprotected sex, you should ask your pharmacist for advice about getting tested.”

Research conducted last year shows 17% of people in Ireland having sex with someone outside a steady relationship did not use any form of protection.

 

Virginia, US – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has supported the idea of “secret pharmacies” to supply drugs used to carry out the death penalty, US media report.

According to the Washington Post, Governor McAuliffe “gutted” a bill which would have required the substitution of the electric chair to execute prisoners if the state could not access lethal injection drugs.

The supply of drugs to be used in lethal injections has become controversial over recent years with pharmacies under pressure not to supply them; last year the American Pharmacists Association voted to oppose participation in applying the death penalty as it violates the ideals of the profession. The International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists takes a similar stance.

According to the Washington Post, Governor McAuliffe wants Virginia to be able to order the drugs from compounding pharmacies, whose names would not be disclosed. This follows similar protection for such pharmacies in other death penalty states, resulting in “lengthy” legal challenges.

McAuliffe, who opposes the death penalty, said that if his amendment to the bill allowing the use of protected compounding pharmacies was not accepted, he would veto the electric chair bill, “essentially placing executions in limbo”.

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