World news wrapup: 15 September 2016

scales and gavel

We take a look at pharmacy news around the world

Dunedin, NZ: A pharmacy student from the University of Otago has appeared in court facing 10 drugs-related charges, including possessing a methamphetamine pipe, importing amphetamine, possession of steroids, possession of a prescription for steroids, and two charges of possession of amphetamine.

The student, who has been granted a continuation of his interim name suppression, reports, had previously been charged with supplying steroids, possession of amphetamine, and two counts of possession of a prescription of steroids.

He has been remanded in custody until later this month.


Florida, US: A Miami pharmacy owner and her son have each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, after admitting to having coordinated a $16 million Medicare fraud scheme.

Pharmacy Times reports that Niurka Fernandez and her son, Roberto Alvarez, led Medicare to pay beneficiaries and patient recruiters for clinically unnecessary scripts, billing Medicare for medicines that were never dispensed. The fraud took place at two Miami pharmacies owned by Fernandez.

Alvarez worked at one of the pharmacies, ostensibly as a pharmacy technician while he instead facilitated payments to Medicare beneficiaries and writing checks to money launderers.

The case was part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which has already charged nearly 2000 defendants who have together billed Medicare more than $10 billion.


Scotland, UK: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scotland has called for better use of pharmacists’ skills in primary care.

In response to the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the role of pharmacists in GP hubs, the RPS made four key recommendations.

“We believe health and wellbeing will be improved by ensuring workforce plans recognise and use the skills and experience of pharmacists to support patients who take medicines as part of a comprehensive health and social care team approach within people’s own localities,” says practice and policy lead Aileen Bryson. 

“Given the central role medicines continue to play in today’s NHS and the shared desire to avoid harm and conserve resources, it is now more important than ever that we look at how we use our available resources and optimise skill mix.

“Our submission provides further detail on the key areas where pharmacist’s expertise is necessary as a member of the multidisciplinary team.”

Ensure that we have the right skill mix within the health and social care team for the appropriate provision of care and services for patients and the public closer to home and to relieve pressures on hospitals and A&E departments. This will allow resources to be further focused on longer term prevention in primary care which will be necessary for sustainability in the NHS.

Making better use of our limited resources, the best possible patient care will come from pharmacists practicing where they can make the most difference to patient care, and by ensuring that the tasks they undertake are patient-facing specific to their skill set.

Utilise the current three year funding and new pharmacist posts as an ideal opportunity to evaluate the new ways of working with a view to provide a national strategic approach to holistic person centred care in the primary care setting.

Going forward we must also ensure that pharmacists who work in community pharmacies are further enabled to work with GPs and other health and social care colleagues to improve care of patients.


US: Walgreens and the US Department of Health and Human Services are collaborating to help provide more than $10 million of free flu shot vouchers this northern flu season to improve influenza immunisation rates among Americans without health insurance.

Through the initiative, which is in its seventh year, Walgreens has provided more than $50 million worth of vouchers to communities across the country.

HHS and Walgreens are distributing vouchers through a variety of outreach efforts, local events and community and faith-based organizations nationwide.

Richard Ashworth, Walgreens president of pharmacy and retail operations, says: “We know that cost can be a barrier for some people when it comes to vaccinations and other preventive care. And by providing access to flu shots at no cost for those who are eligible, we can make a significant impact by protecting more people throughout the flu season.”

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