World news wrapup: 16 May 2019

Pharmacists shouldn’t be “prescription police;” confusion reigns in Arkansas; too much red tape in Ireland

UK: Pharmacists should not be the “prescription police,” the chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England has warned.

Sandra Gidley made the observation following the National Audit Office’s investigation into penalty charge notices in health care.

Chemist + Druggist reports that the number of prescription checks has risen sharply in the last five years, from 750,000 to 24 million between 2014 and 2019, which means that 5.6 million penalty charge notices have been sent to patients for incorrectly claiming free scripts and dental services.

“The National Audit Office has highlighted some important issues around prescription charge fines,” said Ms Gidley.

“It is important that we protect every single NHS pound so it can be spent on caring for the public. Pharmacists understand and support this,” she said.

“However, the NAO identifies the current system is too complicated and bureaucratic and there’s plenty of room for improvement. The system needs to be simplified before we start to criminalise those that make a genuine mistake navigating it. 

“Pharmacists should not be the prescription police – they want to spend their time helping people with their medicines rather than checking their exemption status.

“Ultimately, it would be much simpler to have free prescriptions for everyone, as is the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, because then no-one would have to worry about filling out a form of declaration. They would always have the medicines required, without having to make payment decisions. It would also enable the investment in issuing and monitoring penalty charge notices to be spent on patient care.

“The consequences of the relentless rise in prescription charges are well-known. Surveys from the Prescription Charges Coalition show that one in three people have not collected their prescription because of cost. If you can’t afford your medicines, you become more ill, which leads to poor health and expensive and unnecessary hospital admissions.

“Every day pharmacists are asked by patients who are unable to afford all the items their prescription which ones they could ‘do without’. Patients shouldn’t have to make choices which involve rationing their medicines. No-one should be faced with a financial barrier to getting the medicines they need.”


Ireland: Pharmacists are increasingly tangled in red tape and can’t spend enough time with patients, the Irish Pharmacy Union has warned.

Irish Health reports that the IPU’s latest report showed unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy are a source of frustration for pharmacists, and could be discouraging students from studying pharmacy.

“The report found that excessive red tape, bureaucracy and administration is one of the biggest drawbacks to a career in community pharmacy,” said pharmacist and IPU member Sheila O’Loughlin.

“The research shows that this is making it difficult to attract new graduates into the community pharmacy sector and to retain pharmacists in their current roles.”

Many pharmacists are worried about the significant paperwork generated by the HSE Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme and pressure driven by regulatory compliance, she said.

“We all recognise the importance of checks and balances, and safety is something a pharmacist would never compromise.

“However, 98% of pharmacists state that they are required to spend too much time on paperwork, which means time away from our patients. Almost half of pharmacists now believe the sector is over-regulated, which is creating constant pressure.

“Fewer and fewer pharmacists now say they would recommend community pharmacy to a student today.”

Ms O’Loughlin called on regulators to help reduce bureaucratic requirements placed on pharmacists.


Queens, New York: A pharmacist and pharmacy technician have been arrested and are facing charges pertaining to the diversion of millions of dollars’ worth of oxycodone, reports the New York Daily News.

Pharmacist Victor LaPerla and technician Bianca Martinez conspired to fill several hundred false scripts for 30mg oxycodone pills at a Richmond pharmacy, alleges Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan. She also said the pair sold oxycodone in unlabelled packaging, without scripts.

These pills were sold to an outside partner as well as other individuals, who then sold the oxycodone on the black market, she alleged.

The News reports that when Mr LaPerla’s home was searched by Federal Drug Enforcement Administration personnel, they found US$186,500 (AUD$269,107) in cash and records relating to more than US$300,000 (AUD$432,880) in oxycodone dispensed to fraudulent scripts in 2017 alone.

Mr LaPerla and Ms Martinez have pleaded not guilty.

White Hall, Arkansas: The Doctor’s Orders Pharmacy, in White Hall, has told KARK that customers of a new medical marijuana dispensary have started bombarding the pharmacy with queries since the marijuana dispensary opened.

Customers of the Doctor’s Orders RX in Hot Springs, Arkansas have confused it with pharmacies in Pine Bluff and White Hall, each of which are up to an hour’s travel away.

“We’ve probably had 50 or so calls since Friday,” Lelan Stice, the owner of Doctor’s Orders Pharmacy, told KARK on Tuesday. The medical marijuana dispensary had opened on Friday.

“The confusion is absolutely there because of the similarity of the names and the logos,” he said. “Even the colours are the same.”

Customers of the dispensary have been leaving posts and reviews on Mr Stice’s pharmacy’s page, which he has had to spend considerable time removing.

He and his legal representative have sent a cease and desist letter to the dispensary, requesting that it change its name.

Doctor’s Orders RX is one of only two medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas, both of which opened Friday.

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