World news wrapup: 18 July 2019

homoeopathy pills and blue bottle

France to stop subsidising homeopathy; NZ Pharmacist of the Year lauded; cheaper medicines change Ohio pharmacy landscape

France: French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn has announced that homeopathy will no longer be subsidised by the country’s health insurance system, reports The Local.

Ms Buzyn told Le Parisien that a phase-out period is planned, beginning with a 30% cut to the refund from January 2020; the process is hoped to be complete by 2021.

According to The Local, currently people who buy homeopathic products in pharmacies swipe their “carte vitale” – which entitles them to refunds on the cost of subsidised medicines – and the Government reimburses the subsidised amount.

Homeopathic products will still be available in France, just not with a subsidy.

Ms Buzyn’s announcement follows a report from the French Health Authority which found that homeopathic products were not proven to be effective, and the evidence surrounding them did not support reimbursement.

Consumers in France have expressed significant opposition to the move, with one million signing a petition against the change and a rally held in Paris in June asking the government to retain reimbursement.


USA: The American Pharmacists Association has launched the Well-Being Index, a validated screening tool invented by the Mayo Clinic to evaluate fatigue, depression, burnout, anxiety/stress, and mental/physical quality of life in pharmacists.

The Index is part of a suite of changes APhA has made to address the issue of pharmacist burnout, and facilitate opportunities to improve the well-being and resiliency of pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

Respondents to the anonymous survey will receive immediate individualised feedback, allow them to compare themselves with other pharmacists and health care professionals, and connect them with tools and resources that address individual wellbeing.

Participants will be able to track their status over time. The aggregate findings of the index are planned to be released beginning in the autumn (American time) of 2019.

APhA says that every sector of pharmacy is stressed and doing more with less.

“Well-being has always been at the center of APhA’s mission and core values,” said APhA Executive Vice President and CEO Thomas E. Menighan.

“Pharmacists by nature take care of people and want to make a difference in the health of their patients and community, and APhA is here to ensure that someone is taking care of pharmacists so they can provide quality care to their patients and perform at the top of their level.”


Akron, Ohio: The Akron Beacon Journal/ has reported that pharmacy “deserts” are opening up in Ohio, thanks to the closure of pharmacies due to drug prices.

Low reimbursements for dispensed medicines, particularly due to Ohio’s Medicaid program, have contributed to the closure of hundreds of pharmacies in the state, the Journal reports.

This means at least a dozen areas have less access to medicines and advice; according to one analysis, “scores” more locations in Ohio may face the same fate in the near future.

This means that people who struggle to get to pharmacies 20 minutes or more away will face significant disadvantage, writes reporter Marty Schladen.

“When Medicaid managed-care reimbursements drive a pharmacy out of business, the problem doesn’t end there,” said Denise Conway, a pharmacy owner who owns one Mount Vernon store and is in the process of opening a second pharmacy in Danville.

Addressing a state Senate panel, she said that “The patients move to another pharmacy where the low payment rates suffocate another pharmacy.”

Some pharmacy owners are concerned that CVS has entered into “anti-competitive” practices which caused pharmacies to close; however a spokesperson for the giant said that these claims were “simply untrue”.

He said that one news outlet in the area seemed determined to paint CVS in a negative light while it attempted to reduce medicine prices for patients.


Tokoroa, New Zealand: One of only 20 practising pharmacist prescribers in New Zealand has taken out the title of Pharmacist of the Year 2018 (announced 2019).

Helen Cant was nominated for the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand’s award by a fellow pharmacist, Helen Morton, from Te Rengarenga Medical Centre.

“Helen has been a pharmacist since 1981,” said Ms Morton. “During that time, she has always promoted the pharmacy profession, whether making the case for more clinical pharmacists when she was a manager at Tauranga Hospital or taking her current pioneering role, working across both general practices in Tokoroa as a clinical pharmacist.

“Even in her current role she has endeavoured to constantly innovate and expand her practice so that she is now recognised within the South Waikato community as an expert in her field, type 2 diabetes, with an ability to listen to patients and explain things in a way that they can understand and apply.”

The judging panel described Ms Cant as “a fine example of an exemplary pharmacist.”

Dr Timothy Chen from Tokoroa Family Health – who with wife Dr Kirstie Chen are GPs at the service where Ms Cant works as a clinical pharmacist – emigrated from the United Kingdom in 2016.

“Clinical pharmacists working in general practices there was still a rarity, but Helen is an exemplar. Her work definitely improves patient outcomes, both through her direct patient contact and through the up-skilling and education of staff that she works with,” says Dr Chen.

Ms Cant communicates with patients in a way that leads to sustained change, he said.

“There are many examples of patients who feedback that they finally understand their disease/illness and treatment, and subsequently happily take their medications. There is certainly evidence of improved diabetes control, medication compliance, reduced exacerbations of chronic respiratory disease, etc. and she has only just got started!”

Ms Cant has also played a key role in supporting Tokoroa Family Health to improve their service to the local population. “Our practice has successfully achieved Cornerstone Accreditation in the last three months. Helen was instrumental in helping us improve our policies, protocols and procedures, all of which have led to improved patient care/safety and governance,” said Dr Chen.

“Helen is exceptional! Her knowledge of pharmaceuticals is unparalleled. If all other clinical pharmacists could do what she does, the profession has a very bright future.”

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