World news wrapup: 18 March 2021

Netherlands pilot to look at reusing unwanted medicines; not guilty verdict for accused US pharmacist; UK pharmacist heads to Lebanon to help Syrian refugees

Nijmegen, the Netherlands: Researchers are tackling the problem of unwanted medicines with a pilot program, which will see pharmacists evaluate whether returned medicines can be repackaged and reused.

The NL Times reports that biomedical scientist Charlotte Bekker and colleagues are looking to reduce waste of pharmaceuticals, which to date cannot be reused as it is impossible to determine whether they have been correctly stored.

“Especially with these expensive medicines, sometimes worth a thousand euros per package, a lot of profit can be made,” she said.

She said the world-first trial, involving cancer drugs, will see the medicines “smartly” packaged: sealed, with a temperature chip.

Pharmacists will then be able to evaluate whether the pills are of sufficient quality to be reused. Four hospitals will be involved.

The Royal Dutch Pharmaceutical Society (KNMP) has reiterated its call for people to return unwanted medicines to pharmacies for safe disposal.


Florissant, Colorado: Pharmacist Brent Stein has been found not guilty on three sexual assault charges.

Dr Stein had been arrested in June on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman he had met on the dating site eharmony, reports the Pikes Peak Courier.

Law enforcement had previously told the Courier that the woman had believed Dr Stein would cure her of a medical condition, but alleged that when she arrived from Indiana, he had drugged her with medicines including Metoprolol, Carvedilol and Montelukast, which had not been prescribed to her.

She alleged that he had assaulted her seven times between June 10 and 16.

Dr Stein pleaded not guilty to the charges and a jury has now acquitted him.

Dr Stein had owned the Mountain Key Pharmacy in the small town of Florissant, which has now closed.

He told reporters that “My reputation has been destroyed… my finances, everything”.

“So I’m starting from scratch.”


Lebanon: The UK’s Chemist + Druggist has reported on the efforts of pharmacist Zeshan Rehmani to raise money to help Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Mr Rehmani, from Manchester, wrote that “As a Muslim, I feel it is my duty to help others wherever I can”.

He had been working as a pharmacist contractor, and in February took a break to visit Lebanon with charity Syria Relief.

He also began a crowdfunding campaign to help Syrian refugees, many of whom are currently living in tents in Lebanon – which itself has been impacted by a devastating economic crisis, on top of the effect of COVID-19 and the recent Beirut explosion – and to date has raised £125,000 (AUD$224,526).

Mr Rehmani said his work has allowed him to help provide many children with winter clothing, rent payments for a year for an elderly couple he found living in a tent, and medical help for a “severely unwell” woman who had not eaten for 10 days.

He said the money he has crowdfunded “will go towards the costs of food, heating, clothes and rent payments for numerous Syrian refugees”.


Skippack, Pennsylvania: Philly Mag has reported on the case of pharmacist Mayank Amin, who has been vaccinating thousands of people: dressed as a superhero.

Clad in Superman cape, tights and boots, “Dr Mak,” owner of the independent Skippack Pharmacy, has to date administered 4000 COVID-19 vaccinations, and has 35,000 people on his waiting list.

He said that he had put the Superman outfit on one day to surprise local youngsters, and then “one day I was doing a house call and I don’t know why, but I put it on”.

“And I realised that it helps alleviate people’s fears,” he told reporter Victor Fiorillo.

“So when the pandemic hit, I realised I needed it even more. And I’m also doing it to honour the real superheroes, all those front line workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store employees.”

Mr Amin said that at pop-up locations around the county, he was administering 98% Pfizer vaccines.

“In the beginning, we were one of the few who had that ultra-cold freezer, and that has given us a real advantage,” he said.

“The freezer was a gift and a real blessing. We reached out to Meadowbrook, our local senior home. They bought a freezer early on just in case and weren’t using it. I talked to the CEO. We got it the next day.”

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