World news wrapup: 18 April 2019

Auckland pharmacies penalised over short-changing workers; UK cracks down on online pharmacies following BBC investigation; Dublin pharmacist investigated for selling “study drugs”

Auckland, New Zealand: Seven area pharmacies short-changed some workers NZ$124,281 (AUD$116 335), reports Stuff.

Between April 2014 and April 2016, the seven pharmacies – co-owned by Neeten Bhika and Kerry Oxenham – employed about 90 staff between them, from pharmacists to trainee technicians, interns and pharmacy assistants.

The trainee technicians had agreed that they would not get paid for the time they spent at work studying, using the pharmacies’ equipment – up to about 20 hours each per week.

The pharmacies regularly deducted from 10 to 20 hours a week from the trainee’s time sheets, though a Labour Inspectorate investigation revealed that the owners did not keep records of the hours the trainees actually spent studying. Even when trainees spent 10 or less hours studying a week, hours were still deducted.

This meant the trainees’ hourly rate was effectively reduced below minimum wage.

The co-owners have paid back the workers, and a penalty of NZ$92,500 (AUD$ 86,586) was also imposed on them.

The Inspectorate found the exploitation was not deliberate, but it would not have happened if the hours were monitored effectively.


UK: The UK is cracking down on online pharmacies, reports the BBC, with new guidance issued to owners by the General Pharmaceutical Council.

The move follows an investigation by the BBC as well as a number of complaints raised by the general public.

One family member of a deceased woman told the BBC that his sister had been buying codeine from 18 online pharmacies in the UK. Her regular GP had attempted to manage her condition, but she was able to access scripts for codeine via online doctors and have them dispensed by online pharmacies.

The man said he felt that such services exploited people with dependency problems.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin told the BBC that the new guidance would hopefully “make an important difference to improving standards of safety and care for patients”.

The new rules include a measure whereby websites can not allow patients to select a prescription medicine until they have had an online consultation with a health provider.

Prescribers will need to contact GPs before issuing medication which is often subject to abuse, overuse or misuse, and will need to confirm it is appropriate and being monitored. Antibiotics and other medicines which need monitoring or management will see greater safeguards in place.


Dublin, Ireland: A pharmacist is being investigated on suspicion of selling “large quantities” of prescription drugs, reports The Journal.

The locum pharmacist is suspected of selling “large quantities” of medicines including Xanax, Ritalin and sleeping tablets to students at two local tertiary institutions. Gardai believe that he is obtaining the medicines from a pharmacy owned by a relative.

The medicines are allegedly advertised using social media, including Instagram and Tinder.

The pharmacist is the second to be investigated over the sale of such “study drugs” recently: last summer, a pharmacist was arrested and suspended from practise after Gardai raided his home and found about €5,000 (AUD$7,860) worth of Xanax and Ritalin as well as a small amount of cocaine.

It is believed that the locum pharmacist has increased his sales of the drugs significantly since the first pharmacist was suspended.


British Columbia, Canada: A pharmacist has been reprimanded and told he must not practise his profession for three years, after he was found to have take taken 26,000 tablets of narcotics and other drugs of concern.

Kayle Henry Christensen took at least 16,000 tablets of a narcotic and 10,000 of another controlled substance – both of which require an authorised prescription – between September 2014 and June 2018. The tablets were for his own personal use, reports the Vancouver Sun.

According to the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, Mr Christensen would alter the pharmacy’s inventory after taking the medicines, so that his unauthorised removal of them would not be spotted.

Mr Christensen was fined CAD$1,500 (AUD$1,564) and had his licence suspended for 90 days. He must not work as a pharmacist, manager of a pharmacy or a preceptor for pharmacy students for three years. He must also refrain from placing or receiving orders for narcotic or controlled drugs, and complete an ethics course.

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