World news wrapup: 16 July 2020

Jessica Patel. Image: Jessica Patel via Facebook.

Longer sentences potential for role in fungal meningitis outbreak; public rates UK pharmacy; pharmacist who diluted cancer meds out of prison early

Boston, Massachusetts: A panel of judges says a trial judge erred when sentencing two men for their role in the United States’ deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.

A Boston appeals court has upheld the convictions for racketeering and fraud against Barry Cadden and Glenn Chinn, over their roles in the outbreak, which affected patients across the United States.

A panel of judges has found that the trial judge was in error when he sentenced them to nine and eight years in prison respectively.

This federal appeals court decision makes it possible for prosecutors to seek longer prison sentences for the two, reports WHTC.

Mr Cadden was the founder and president of the New England Compounding Center and Glenn Chin its supervisory pharmacist.

More than 100 of the 793 patients who became ill after being treated with the tainted medicines have died. Prosecutors said these steroids were prepared in filthy, unsafe conditions, which had allowed them to become contaminated with mould.

The pair are still facing separate second-degree murder charges in the state of Michigan, where a significant number of victims resided.


UK: Community pharmacies are believed by nearly 90% of Britons to be playing a vital role in the battle against COVID-19, new data shows.

Chemist+Druggist reports that the National Pharmacy Association surveyed the general public and found 89% said community pharmacy was “very essential” or “essential” in the provision of health support to their communities during the COVID-19 crisis.

Another 81% said that their opinion of pharmacists is “favourable,” a jump of 15% on the latest comparable figures from the NPA in 2016.

And 22% said their view of pharmacies had improved during the crisis, for reasons including pharmacy staff having gone “above and beyond,” and providing good patient service.

Nearly 92% of the respondents said the NHS should consider pharmacists to have high or medium priority for access to PPE, and another 77% said it was either “very” or “fairly” important to have face-to-face access to a pharmacist.

NPA chair Andrew Lane wrote in C+D that “This research shows not only the huge public support for pharmacists to play a greater role in the future of the NHS but also a strong attachment to neighbourhood services and the human touch in healthcare.”


Trimble, Missouri: A pharmacist, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for diluting medicines for seriously ill people including cancer patients, has been released early because of COVID-19.

KCUR reports that Robert Courtney was sentenced in 2002 and was due to be released in 2027.

But the US Justice Department has written to some of his victims informing them that he has been found eligible for home confinement due to COVID-19, after the Federal Bureau of Prisons was instructed to release prisoners who are “at a minimal risk of recidivating”.

Mr Courtney had worked at the Research Hospital in Kansas City. An oncologist tipped off the FBI and Food and Drug Administration that she had been told the pharmacist was dispensing far more Gemzar (gemcitabine) than he was buying.

Investigating agents found that the drugs were far more dilute than the concentration the oncologist had been ordering, with one sample containing less than 1% of the amount prescribed.

The dilution scheme took place over around 10 years and as many as 4,200 patients and 98,000 scripts were involved.

The decision to release Mr Courtney early has reportedly appalled those linked to the victims.

“It’s hard to go from thinking an illness took your family member to thinking that greed and murder took your family member,” responded one woman whose grandmother had been treated with medicines mixed by Mr Courtney, and who died in 2000.

A now-retired assistant US. attorney who prosecuted Mr Courtney told KCUR that “Robert Courtney should not have been released early and should have served the full 30 year sentence justly imposed by the district court”.


Middlesborough, England: The family of a pharmacist who was murdered by her husband – also a pharmacist – is supporting a domestic homicide review which has made some recommendations about addressing “honour-based” violence, reports the Shropshire Star.

Jessica Patel was killed by her husband, Mitesh, who planned to get the proceeds of a £2m (almost AUD$3.6 million) life insurance policy and move to Australia to be with his boyfriend.

Mr Mitesh claimed an intruder killed his wife but he was found guilty of her murder and sentenced to a minimum term of 30 years in jail.

Ms Patel’s family assisted with the Review in the hope that lessons could be learned from the pharmacist’s murder.

“We hope this review will help other victims, those closest to them and the wider public to recognise the various forms and signs of abuse, and will remove any barriers, be it cultural or otherwise, to seeking help and getting the support they need,” they said after the results of the Review were published.

“As a family this review was an extremely painful process but we recognise the importance of highlighting Jessica’s story to provide a voice for her and others that may be suffering in silence.

“So that this act of evil is not repeated, we encourage everyone to open their eyes, to ask questions and never assume everything is OK.”

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