World news wrapup: 16 January 2020


Pharmacist jailed for black market activity; NZ pharmacies feel the pinch as Chemist Warehouse moves in; pharmacy tech hid stolen drugs in her bra

Wolverhampton, England: A pharmacist has been sentenced to 28 months in prison after he was convicted of illegally supplying Class B and Class C drugs to criminal associates on the black market.

Jasper Ojela, owner of a pharmacy in Dudley, supplied opioid analgesics, tranquillisers and cancer treatments with a street value of around £280,490 (AUD$529,672), a Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency investigation found.

According to an MHRA statement, the organisation became suspicious when UK-based pharma wholesaler A1 Pharma reported that an audit had shown the sale of controlled drugs had not been recorded as such within its management system.

This led to an investigation where evidence was gathered suggesting that the drugs supplied by A1 Pharma were purchased by criminal groups. These groups illegally diverted medicines from the regulated supply chain by cloning the identity of genuine pharmaceutical companies located overseas and licensed pharmacies.

The investigation found that Mr Ojela was a part of the scheme, with his pharmacy purchasing large quantities of controlled drugs from pharmaceutical wholesalers – more than a pharmacy would normally dispense against scripts.

Mr Ojela admitted to police that he was responsible for purchasing the medicines for later diversion, and that his associates paid him to do so.

The investigation found that between February and September 2016 he illegally supplied more than 200,000 doses of these drugs to criminal associates.

As well as the 28-month prison sentence, Mr Ojela may be required to pay back the proceeds of his offending, as MHRA is seeking to have him do so.

 

Tauranga, New Zealand: One pharmacy owner has lost three staff and up to 40% of sales after a Chemist Warehouse opened in Bethlehem last November.

The NZ Herald reports that pharmacies close to the Australian discount giant are worried that they will not be able to match the free scripts offered by Chemist Warehouse, as well as two nearby supermarket pharmacies in Tauranga.

In New Zealand most scripts attract an NZ$5 ($AUD4.79) tax which is paid by pharmacies to the Government, but the larger operations such as Chemist Warehouse are able to absorb this cost.

Steel Shin, who owns the Unichem Metro Bethlehem Pharmacy, told journalist Cira Olivier that when three staff left, he did not replace them and that the pharmacy was “just hanging in there”.

He said that if sales conditions worsen, the pharmacy could close.

Simon Hodgson, owner of another close-by store, the Bureta Pharmacy, said that it was “a bit frustrating that a big Australian corporation is really upsetting the market place here in New Zealand”.

Meanwhile Kaslin Naidoo, co-manager and managing partner of the Chemist Warehouse, said that the response to the new discount pharmacy by Tauranga residents “couldn’t be better”.

Absorbing the NZ$5 fee “makes healthcare affordable to everyone across the board, for everyone to have equal access,” he said.

 

Lake City, Florida: A pharmacy technician has been subjected to an emergency suspension order after authorities alleged that she stole more than a thousand tramadol tablets from her workplace by hiding them in her bra.

According to the order, issued by the Florida Department of Health, Katrina Fahlberg told her colleagues at Genoa Healthcare that she had taken the bottles of tramadol from the pharmacy shelf, taken five to 10 tablets each time, and ingested them.

The ESO also alleges that Ms Fahlberg admitted to hiding stolen tramadol in her bra, and concealing bottles in her handbag, reports Newsweek.

It says she took around 1,200 tablets during her time at the pharmacy and that she hid her activity by ordering the drug without a purchase order, due to low demand for it, meaning it would not be automatically re-ordered by the pharmacy’s automated system.

Eventually a site manager filled a tramadol script and noticed inconsistencies in the inventory, after which he reviewed the pharmacy’s records and noted the amount of tramadol coming into the store. Ms Fahlberg then admitted to the thefts, the order says.

 

Birmingham, England: A pharmacist and his wife have been convicted on a number of charges relating to the rape of several children over a 20-year period, the BBC reports.

Michael Oluronbi, who was also a pastor and called himself a “prophet” was convicted of the abuse of six girls and one boy, reports the BBC, including 15 rape charges, seven indecent assault charges and two sexual assault charges.

His wife, Juliana Oluronbi, was found guilty on three charges of aiding and abetting rape.

In one case the child concerned was eight years old when the abuse began, and in some cases, it continued until the victim was an adult. Three of the girls concerned became pregnant and Mr Oluronbi arranged terminations in these cases.

Eventually one victim approached the police and Mr Oluronbi was arrested in May 2018 during an attempt to leave the UK.

The couple are yet to be sentenced.

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