World news wrapup: 17 September 2020

Epipens. Image: AJP.
Epipens. Image: AJP.

Hero pharmacist helps save a life in Dublin; Rite Aid manager terminated after customer turns violent; pharmacist feeds COVID patients, health workers

Dublin, Ireland: Pharmacist Clodagh Victory has been lauded in the media for helping to save the life of a woman who was suffering symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction.

Dublin Live reports that Ms Victory, who was new in her job at the Remedi Pharmacy in central Dublin after returning to Ireland from Australia, was dispensing scripts in the back of the store when a “quite stressed” woman came in and asked for antihistamines.

“I went out to ask if everything was okay and she seemed in panic,” Ms Victory said. “She told me she had a peanut allergy and had eaten a piece of cake that had some in it.

“I asked her to take off her mask. Her lips and throat were swollen and she presented with difficulty breathing.”

Ms Victory asked a colleague to call for an ambulance and tell them there was an emergency, and took the woman into a consultation room where she administered an Epipen.

“She was in extreme shock and panic at this stage,” she said. “She reacted well to the first dose and her breathing began to improve.”

The woman was hospitalised but contacted the pharmacy the next day to let the staff know that she had gone home and was now well.

Ms Victory, who said the positive outcome was due to a “complete team effort” from all the staff, said she was touched by the number of positive messages sent her way and that of the pharmacy.

“A pharmacist can be a demanding and high pressure job at the best of times,” she said.

“I went back to filling the prescriptions for the rest of the patients waiting in the pharmacy and didn’t really get a chance to absorb what had happened until I went home that evening.

“It was only then that I realised that I had saved someone’s life by acting so fast in the situation, staying calm, and following the procedures!”


York, Pennsylvania: A Rite Aid manager has had her employment terminated after she defended herself from a customer who became violent when she asked him to wear a mask.

A spokesperson for Rite Aid says that Elena Santiago was fired for carrying and displaying a knife during the incident, MSN reports.

Ms Santiago said that she asked the customer to wear a mask in the pharmacy, but he refused. When she said she would have to ask him to leave, he also refused, and when she said she would call the police he said he would harm her.

She asked the cashier to ask colleagues to help, at which point the man became violent and shoved her into a display rack, then began to destroy displays, throwing the cash register to the ground.

When Ms Santiago called police he turned to her again, and she produced a pocket knife and pepper spray, which she said she normally carries on her walks to and from her shifts to her home outside of daylight hours. She said she did not normally carry the knife in store, but had put it in her pocket as her shift was almost over.

She accidentally pepper sprayed herself, being unfamiliar with the device, and the man left, smashing windows.

Days later she received a call telling her that her employment was terminated, saying that staff were not to enforce the wearing of masks, which is mandated by government, and that she had had a weapon at work.

A Rite Aid spokesperson said that, “we have a no tolerance policy specific to associates bringing weapons to our facilities and having weapons on person”.


Kathmandu, Nepal: The Associated Press reports that pharmacist Bikram Bhadel, and friend Indra Kumar Newar – a taxi driver who has been unemployed thanks to COVID-19 – have invested their own savings into a free restaurant for health workers and patients.

Binaj Gurubacharya writes that Mr Bhadel rented an empty restaurant across the street from the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, which his pharmacy is located near to, and is now feeding more than 200 COVID-19 patients, doctors, nurses and hospital workers each day.

“Every day I watched the patients, their families, doctors and other health workers struggling to get a good meal,” he said.

“They were already having a tough time and the food situation was making it worse. This is where I decided that I need to step in and help out.”

He said that given medicine for the patients is scarce, at least the service means they can benefit from healthy food.

While the pair continue to donate their own money to pay for food and the 11 cooks and helpers they have hired – all of whom are paid minimum wage and regularly tested for the coronavirus – friends, families and neighbours have also contributed.

“We are hopeful the situation will get better in three months,” Mr Bhadel said, “but if that does not happen, we will continue our work.”


US: The case of Robert Courtney, a pharmacist who diluted cancer drugs thus contributing to the early deaths of at least hundreds of patients, has been featured on a true crime series.

Oxygen’s “Licence to Kill” has interviewed people involved with the case, which saw the trusted pharmacist skim US$19 million (AUD$26 million) in diverted cash from providing ineffective chemotherapy drugs.

Many of the drugs he targeted for dilution were for the treatment of women’s cancers.

Mr Courtney’s case recently came to national attention across the US when he was slated for early release due to COVID-19, but after an outcry from the families of victims as well as local officials and lawyers, he will remain in prison.

Clayton Withers, the son of cancer victim Pat Withers, said his mother had been healthy and confident she could fight her cancer diagnosis, and surprised by the lack of side-effects she experienced from her treatment.

Three weeks after she started treatment, she was found that the cancer was not responding, and had spread instead. Her son said that she “literally wasted away to almost nothing”.

Meanwhile Eli Lilly Pharmaceutical Company senior executive sales specialist Darryl Ashley, who was in contact with the oncologist for whom Mr Courtney was mixing the drugs, said that “When I talked to Dr Hunter’s staff, they conveyed to me that they weren’t seeing the hair loss with the Taxol regiment and the nausea and vomiting with the Gemzar regiment … that was troubling to me”.

“And so that got me to thinking, ‘I wonder if these patients were getting the full dose of their chemotherapy.’” 

An investigation found that Mr Courtney was purchasing the medicines in far lower quantities than the amount he was selling to doctors – and Mr Ashley began to suspect Mr Courtney was diluting the drugs.

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