World news wrapup: 16 August 2018

cannabis marijuana weed

Pharmacy threatened with fine over direct-to-consumer cannabis advertising; defendant in fungal meningitis case pleads guilty; body of missing pharmacy graduate identified

Turku, Finland: The Finland Medicines Agency (Fimea) is threatening a Turku pharmacy with a €50,000 fine (AUD$78471) fine if it does not stop marketing a medicinal cannabis product which is not approved for sale.

Yle reports that the Linnan Apteekki pharmacy has been marketing the unapproved product direct to consumers.

“The pharmacist had emailed patients who use cannabis for medicinal purposes. This information came to our attention and as a result we took action,” said Esa Heinonen, director of the Agency. The emails had been considered marketing by Fimea.

Medicinal cannabis products are legally obtainable in Finland to treat muscle cramps in MS patients, but only from certain pharmacies subject to certain regulations, and only around 200 Finnish patients have access to it.

Fimea’s Pharmacovigilance Unit, Liisa Näveri, told a Finnish newspaper that pharmacies have no right to advertise prescription products direct to consumers and said the Turku pharmacy’s having done so was “more aggravating” than the fact that the product advertised was a recreational drug.


Boston, Massachusetts: Scott M Connolly, an unregistered pharmacy technician who worked at the pharmacy at the centre of the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, has pleaded guilty to a count of mail fraud.

The Boston Globe reports that Mr Connolly had worked at the New England Compounding Center from January 2010 to 2012, and is part of a group of “lesser-known” defendants in the case.

Glenn Chin, the supervisory pharmacist at the compounding pharmacy was jailed for eight years on charges including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead. However he was found not guilty of 25 murder charges.

Barry Cadden, the pharmacy’s president, was jailed for nine years, and was found not guilty of second-degree murder charges, but guilty on charges including mail fraud and racketeering.

Now, federal prosecutors claim that Mr Connolly and other defendants “devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud NECC’s customers and the patients of those customers.”

Mr Connelly’s role at the Center had included making medicines for hospitals to use in heart surgeries, in one of the pharmacy’s clean rooms – despite having surrendered his state licence in January 2009 after he faced disciplinary action.

He allegedly used Mr Cadden’s username and password when filling orders in an effort to hide the fact that he was working in the role, as well as failing to perform validation tests.

Lawyers for Mr Connelly and other defendants say they had no responsibility for the contamination of steroids which killed 64 people and infected around 800; however prosecutors say they may not have been responsible for the contamination, but were still using unsafe practices to create and send out other medicines.


Loganville, Georgia: A body has been identified as Alvin Ahmed, a pharmacy graduate who went missing and was feared abducted in July.

Mr Ahmed had only recently graduated and was about to start his career with Publix Pharmacy. He had completed a shift at the pharmacy where he worked, and put groceries and his white pharmacist’s coat in the car before disappearing.

His brother Kalvin had written a plea on Facebook asking for support, prayers and help finding him.

Now, 11Alive reports that police have confirmed that a body found in a nearby lake was Mr Ahmed.

Notes found on his phone indicated that Mr Ahmed himself had taken measures to make the disappearance look suspicious, and then died by suicide.

“Details about how he planned to turn off his watch and phone, discard them at the nearby Atmosphere Bar and Grill, and continue on to Lake Carlton were also included in the same note,” said Gwinnett police.

They confirmed that the gunshot wound which killed Mr Ahmed was self-inflicted.

Kalvin Ahmed has thanked his brother’s Publix colleagues, friends at the university where he studies pharmacy, loved ones and friends for their support.


Scotland: The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland has launched a new campaign, “Good care starts with a conversation,” aimed at encouraging patients to talk to pharmacy if they have questions about their medicines.

The campaign also aims to highlight the key role played by pharmacists in helping people get the most benefit from their medicines.

The RPS cites recent research which showed low awareness of the pharmacist’s role and services which were available in pharmacy.

“There is a clear need for these conversations to take place”, said Alex MacKinnon, Director at RPS in Scotland. “20% of adults take more than 5 medicines and for people over 70 this rises to 59%. In addition, up to half of all medicines prescribed are not taken as intended.

“Pharmacists must play a much larger role in our NHS to ensure better outcomes for people and prevent avoidable hospital admissions. Our campaign urges people to talk to pharmacy because the good care we all want to see across our NHS, starts with a conversation.”

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