World news wrapup: 14 October 2021


Convictions upheld for pharmacists who claimed they were like “mere shipping clerks;” US retailers gets out of pharmacy sector; mechanic who saved pharmacy delivery lauded

Boston, Massachusetts: Two pharmacists involved with the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak originating at the New England Compounding Center have had their appeals against their convictions knocked back.

Kathy Chin and Michelle Thomas were not charged with any role in compounding the contaminated steroid injections which caused nearly 800 Americans to become sick, and 100 to die.

However they were each tried and convicted of multiple counts of introducing, through their work at the now-closed NECC, “misbranded” drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.

Ms Chin was sentenced in 2019 to two years of probation, while Ms Thomas was sentenced to one year.

The appeal hinged on whether Ms Chin and Ms Thomas were truly dispensing the drugs, or whether they were really “mere shipping clerks”.

The court of appeal noted that NECC was required to ensure that “legit prescriptions triggered the drug shipments”.

It said that as the pair were licensed pharmacists who provided signatures and completed documentation relevant to the orders, a rational juror could conclude that they were acting as pharmacists.

“Why else, such a juror could reasonably conclude, would NECC have made sure to assign that role
to a licensed pharmacist, given that a licensed pharmacist is a type of professional specially authorized to perform that very function,” it said in relation to Ms Chin’s contention.

According to list23.com, the two pharmacists had approved scripts in the names of patients such as “Filet O’Fish,” and “Flash Gordon”.

The convictions were upheld.

 

Eugene, Oregon, and Deerfield, Illinois: Bi-Mart, an employee-owned chain of retailers located in the states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho, is leaving the pharmacy sector, citing increasing costs and reimbursement pressure.

After previous closures of pharmacies in the Portland metropolitan area and several other markets, Bi-Mart is now shuttering its pharmacy operations in Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

Its executive team has announced that it and Walgreens have entered into a definitive agreement in which Walgreens will acquire Bi-Mart’s pharmacy business.

This includes pharmacy patient prescription files and the related pharmacy inventory of 56 existing Bi-Mart locations.

Prescription files from most Bi-Mart pharmacies will transfer to nearby Walgreens pharmacy locations. In select areas where Walgreens does not have nearby stores, Walgreens will operate pharmacies within existing Bi-Mart locations under the Walgreens brand, primarily located in rural areas in Oregon.

Bi-Mart will continue its retail operation.

“This decision, while difficult, is strategically important as we move to strengthen our solid financial position and expand our plans for future growth in the Northwest,” said Rich Truett, president and CEO, Bi-Mart.

“Bi-Mart’s core business is healthy and strong, however over the years factors such as increasing costs and ongoing reimbursement pressure has led in part to our decision.

“We look forward to partnering with Walgreens to transition our pharmacy staff and members as seamless as possible.”

Bi-Mart pharmacists and pharmacy staff will have an opportunity to apply for available positions at Walgreens.

 

Washington, DC: The American Pharmacists Association and 16 other pharmacy organisations have joined together to extend their condolences to the families of Brian and Kelly Robinette, of Ellicott City, Maryland, and Rebecca Reynolds, of Cumberland, Maryland.

Police allege that Mr Robinette and his wife were shot dead by Mr Robinette’s brother, Jeffrey Burnham, who reportedly told his mother that “Brian knows something” about a Government plan to poison people with COVID-19 vaccines.

He allegedly told another person that his pharmacist brother was “killing people with the COVID shot”.

According to police, Mr Burnham had intended to confront Mr Robinette over the latter’s provision of COVID-19 vaccine services.

“As the first line of care for millions of Americans, pharmacists have been under incredible pressure since the start of the pandemic,” said APhA in a statement.

“In an extremely polarized environment, they have heroically stepped forward to provide vital services – COVID testing and vaccinations, regular immunizations, complex and chronic disease care, and much more.

“All of these efforts are important collaborative roles that pharmacists play as vital members of health care teams focused on protecting the public health of individuals and communities.

“As we begin American Pharmacists Month, we remind our fellow citizens that in this challenging time of uncertainty and fear, pharmacists have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

“We stand by them all.”

 

Edinburgh, Scotland: A mechanic has been hailed as a hero in the British press after he came to the rescue when more than a dozen vans delivering pharmaceuticals were attacked.

Thirteen AAH Pharmaceuticals, slated to make “crucial” medicines deliveries to pharmacies, had had their tyres slashed.

The Daily Record reports that Mark Chisholm, a mechanic at McConechy’s Tyre Service in Coatbridge, had newly returned to his job as an essential worker after recovering from COVID-19.

When he was called to Edinburgh to help earlier this year, he headed off immediately.

Within 40 minutes he had the tyres changed and all 13 vans were ready to head out.

“One of the workers had apparently been let go and slashed the vans as a revenge thing,” Mr Chisholm said.

“I got the call and you just think it’ll be a normal call-out—one car, one van or a truck type thing.

“I was told it was actually a major firm waiting with prescriptions to go to the pharmacy.

“They did tell me it was critical they got to the pharmacies—you can’t have people waiting about to get their medication.

“I had my own battle with Covid just before that as well. I’d caught it and passed it to family members who ended up on ventilators but thankfully survived it.

“So I could see how important the medicine was.”

Mr Chisholm has now been honoured with the gold American Express Frontline Hero Store Colleague Award at the Retail Week Awards in London.

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