World news wrapup: 18 October 2018

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Trump ends the US pharmacy “gag clause”; triple threat alleged robber caught in NZ; fraud crackdowns in the UK

Washington, DC: Pharmacists in the US are now permitted to tell their patients when it would be cheaper for them to pay cash for their prescription medicines rather than use insurance.

President Donald Trump signed into law two bills which mean “gag clauses” – where pharmacy benefit managers and insurers were able to stop pharmacies from disclosing such drug pricing information – are now outlawed.

President Trump called the clauses “unjust,” reports the Pharmacy Times.

“These clauses prevent pharmacists from telling patients about more affordable options for prescription drugs,” said Mr Trump.

“Our citizens deserve to know the lowest price.”

Previously, pharmacists could face significant consequences if they disclosed that paying cash would be cheaper than via insurance.

Paul W Abramowitz, CEO of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, was at the bill signing and expressed support for the decision.

“ASHP, independently and as a lead member for of the Steering Committee for the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, has long advocated for measures that would improve transparency in drug pricing,” he said.

“We applaud Congress and the President for enacting legislation that will help pharmacists identify less expensive alternatives for their patients.”


Upper Hutt, New Zealand: A man allegedly robbed a pharmacy in Upper Hutt near Wellington twice in one week in early October – and then came back for a third attempt.

According to the NZ Herald, the Queen St Pharmacy was targeted on both the 7th and the 13th of October, the first time by a man wielding a large knife, and the second a craft knife.

The same man stole benzodiazepines on both these occasions.

The pharmacy’s co-owner, Brooke McKay, said the man was “obviously high and drunk out of his brains” when he allegedly came back for a third robbery.

He went to the pharmacy’s back entrance, stumbling as he walked. When the pharmacist saw him, he locked all the doors and left.

Police arrested a 29-year-old man and charged him with two counts of aggravated robbery, and one attempted aggravated robbery.

Ms McKay said she was “pretty stoked” that the robber had been caught.

The first incident was the first time the pharmacy had been targeted, she told the Herald.

After this incident, “everyone told us it would never happen again,” she said.

“And I’m like ‘sweet, I’m up to my third’.”


UK: The NHS is set to crack down on pharmacists who are claiming payments for scripts and services they have not performed, reports Chemist + Druggist.

According to C+D, the activities of a small number of pharmacists and dentists – described as “large-scale scams” – are having a significant effect on the fraud burden in England.

The NHS Counter-Fraud Authority and the NHS Business Services Authority plan to share pharmacy data in a bid to stop suspects from rorting the system.

According to the Department of Health, one London pharmacist was jailed for 12 months and given a £45,000 (AUD$83,141) fine for “abusing the prescriptions system, including repeat prescriptions”.


England: A bid to reduce prescription fraud in the UK has earned the criticism of pharmacists, who say that the new system will undermine patient trust.

The BBC reports that a new system will require pharmacists to check a digital exemption system before dispensing medicines without charge for people who are eligible for free scripts.

Until now, patients eligible for free medicines in England have only had to either show the pharmacist an exemption certificate, or sign the back of the script saying that they are eligible for free medicines.

The new system is set to be piloted next year.

“What if the computer says no? That is a real dilemma,” the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Sandra Gidley told the BBC.

“Sometimes somebody has free prescriptions legitimately, they’ve got a medical exception—they’re something like a diabetic—and they might forget to renew it and the computer says no.

“You’re not going to stop a diabetic from getting their insulin, for example.

“So I think this is potentially fraught with problems.”

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