World news wrapup: 14 September 2017

Pharmacy staff ready for Irma. Image: CVS Health

How pharmacy handled Hurricane Irma; GPs and pharmacists scuffle over flu service; ‘errant’ Malaysian pharmacists threaten GP business

Florida, US: The outpatient pharmacy at Florida Hospital Orlando was one of only a few pharmacies open in Central Florida during and after Hurricane Irma over the weekend – and it filled three times as many prescriptions as usual.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that many patients assumed their local pharmacies would be open on the weekend. However, many pharmacies were closed due to Irma, which left millions without power and displaced thousands of people from their homes; these patients eventually found their way to the hospital.

Howard Smith, director of outpatient pharmacy department at Florida Hospital, told the Sentinel that the outpatient pharmacy “hadn’t anticipated that much demand”. The store had been kept open despite the hurricane because it had access to generator power, and because officials had deemed it likely other pharmacies nearby would not open.

Mr Smith needed to bring in two additional staff and extend the pharmacy’s hours to serve customers, some of whom came in to access three-day supplies of medicine to tide them over until their usual pharmacy re-opened.

Meanwhile, CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation announced a US$125,000 donation in cash and in-kind product donations to help those affected by Irma.

“We are dismayed by the effects of Hurricane Irma across Florida and the impact it’s having on our customers and colleagues in the community,” said Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy at CVS Health, and President of the CVS Health Foundation.

“We will continue to do all we can to ensure that residents affected by this natural disaster have continued access to the support and supplies they need to recover and rebuild.”


UK: The British Medical Association has attacked the UK’s Pharmacy Flu Service, according to Chemist + Druggist, claiming that the service is “undermining good working relationships” between doctors and pharmacists.

GP Clinical and prescribing policy lead at the BMA Dr Andrew Green told C+D that this would “have long-term implications that reach well beyond the flu campaign”.

Pharmacies around the UK began administering flu vaccines on 1 September under the third national pharmacy flu service.

Dr Green said there is “no conclusive evidence” that the service was increasing vaccine uptake.

Mandeep Mudhar, director of marketing and development at independent pharmacy chain Numark, has told C+D that he is “saddened at such an appallingly negative view from the BMA”.

He encouraged the BMA to instead examine how GPs and pharmacists can work together.


Petaling Jaya, Malaysia: Doctors have told FMT News that they have experienced a significant drop in business thanks to pharmacists taking over the function of diagnosis and recommending alternatives to prescription medicines – and some are dispensing medicines without prescription, they say.

“You have pharmacies that are dishing out medicine without prescriptions or simply recommending alternative types of medication,” said one doctor, who said his business had dropped 30% in the last year.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Ravindran R Naidu told reporter Robin Augustin that MMA was receiving a significant number of complaints about pharmacists abusing the rules.

“Pharmacists are supposed to dispense drugs like antibiotics or drugs for treating diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol only with a doctor’s prescription,” he told FMT News.

“A proper history, physical examination and identifying necessary investigations needed is done before arriving at a diagnosis, let alone starting any treatment.”

The doctors expressed their support for a proposed Pharmacy Bill, which has been debated for years but never legislated, which would separate the diagnostic/prescribing and dispensing functions.

Currently, doctors in Malaysia can dispense; one doctor told FMT News that if the bill was passed consultation fees would need to rise, as doctors would no longer be able to make money from dispensing.


US: CVS Pharmacy has announced that it will introduce automated retail vending machines stocked with “necessities” including OTC medicines, “better-for-you” snacks and personal care products.

Judy Sansone, senior vice president of Front Store Business & Chief Merchant at CVS Pharmacy says that CVS is always on the lookout for new ways to combine convenience and innovation.

“Our new CVS Pharmacy vending machine program allows us to extend that convenience beyond our brick-and-mortar locations to offer customers on-the-go essentials in the locations where they often need them most, like airports, hotels and other transportation hubs,” she says.

Each vending machine’s offer will be customised to suit its location.

Products available will include OTC medicines for allergy, pain relief, digestive health and cough and cold. Vitamins and supplements, sleep aids such as melatonin, first aid items and eye care and oral health products will also be offered.

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