World news wrapup: 19 September 2019

NY pharmacy closed after non-pharmacist owner arrested over oxycodone distribution; British pharmacists and students under stress; another Canadian pharmacist sanctioned over snooping in health records

Staten Island, New York: A pharmacy has been closed indefinitely and its owner arrested after he allegedly distributed more than 170,000 oxycodone pills without having the authority to do so.

According to sources such as and ABC Eyewitness News, Michael Paulson, the owner of Regal Remedies at South Beach, has been charged with conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute oxycodone illegally, as well as health care fraud and one count of paying kickbacks to induce individuals to purchase items under a federal health care program.

Mr Paulson is not a registered pharmacist and has no authority to distribute substances such as oxycodone in New York.

He allegedly ordered more than 170,000 oxycodone pills from pharmaceutical suppliers, and dispensed almost two thirds of them without a script; only around 62,000 were dispensed after he was presented with a prescription.

Some of the people he allegedly dispensed to without a script were co-conspirators who paid him thousands of dollars in return, reports state.

According to authorities, some of the drugs were sold to people who told Mr Paulson that they needed the medicine to help pay off debts including mortgages. Authorities said Mr Paulson was aware that these medicines would likely be onsold.

Mr Paulson also allegedly told customers to order medicines they did not need and then charged insurance providers for reimbursements, then paid some of this money back to his customers.


UK: Stress is a growing issue amongst pharmacists, according to British pharmacy media. The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that most respondents to a Pharmacist Support survey said they were worried about managing stress at work, as well as their work-life balance and mental health.

The charity Pharmacist Support carried out a survey earlier this year, to which 500 pharmacists responded. The survey was followed by in-depth interviews.

A majority – 61% – of pharmacist respondents said that they needed help with stress while working, and 59% needed help with their work-life balance. Almost half also wanted support with managing their wellbeing.

The report also found that pharmacists practising in the community were most worried about general wellbeing, with 78% of these pharmacists saying mental health was a key issue.

Meanwhile, Chemist+Druggist reports that pharmacy students who have undertaken community pharmacy placements are being “put off” the profession due to the stressors they see there.

British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association treasurer Sean Brannen told C+D that these students “can see that pharmacists are under pressure and are not able to devote a lot of time to them”.

“Some of our members have told us they feel quite neglected and that is giving them a really negative view of the sector,” he said.

C+D also spoke to the Association’s president, Regan McCahill, who said that “A lot of our members say they have been on a placement and the community pharmacist has said: ‘Don’t do pharmacy’.”


New Brunswick: An unidentified pharmacist has reportedly been disciplined by the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists for snooping in the health records of family members and a colleague who had passed away.

According to the College, the pharmacist faced sanctions for “viewing health records when there was no patient-professional relationship present”.

According to the College, the pharmacist’s employer reported the activity, which took place in February, to the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.

The pharmacist was not technically providing patient care to the individuals whose information they accessed, but the College found that the pharmacist was employed in the capacity of a practising pharmacist, and so had contravened the Standards of Practice.

“By accessing the records of a deceased colleague and family members, the pharmacist failed to recognize the inability to act justly due to existing personal relationships and, the pharmacist used privileged access to information to gain knowledge of individuals,” the College said in deciding the pharmacist had also breached the Code of Ethics.

“By accessing the records of a deceased colleague, the pharmacist is seen to be satisfying a personal need for knowledge rather than collecting data for the benefit of a patient.”

The pharmacist was suspended by their employer, which the College took into consideration.

It reprimanded the pharmacist and decided they were not permitted to serve as a pharmacy manager, or as a preceptor of students, for 12 months. The pharmacist was also ordered to reimburse the College CAD$2,500 (AUD$2,753) in costs associated with investigating the complaint.

The College said the decision sent several messages for other pharmacists, including that “accessing individual health records in any database or file is only justifiable in order to provide patient care or improve quality of care. Accessing health records for personal reasons is an abuse of privileged access”.

“Pharmacy professionals must remain vigilant for situations where conflict of interests exists as it presents increased risk for all involved of a poor decision on the part of the professional.

“Accessing records of family, friends and colleagues should be avoided unless clear justification exists and is documented.”


Lakeland, Florida: Pharmacist Xuan Tran has admitted taking a range of drugs from the pharmacy where she worked, including Xanax, Percocet, Vicodin, and Tylenol with codeine, but says that she took them under duress, the Miami Herald reports.

Upon becoming aware of the behaviour, Florida’s Department of Health immediately handed her an emergency suspension order.

But Ms Tran claims that she stole the medicines because she was being extorted by “unwanted tenants,” the Herald says.

According to the emergency suspension order, the pharmacy manager at the Publix pharmacy where Ms Tran worked noticed in July that a bottle of Adderall was missing, while performing an inventory.

While Ms Tran has not admitted to taking this particular bottle, she did admit to taking at least 120 Tramadol tablets, 120 Xanax tablets, 40 Tylenol with codeine no. 3 tablets; and five tablets of Percocet and Vicodin each, between February and May 2018.

“Tran stated that she took these drugs from her employer because she had unwanted tenants in her home who refused to leave unless she provided drugs to them,” the order states.

Ms Tran was renting a Lakeland home to eight people, but made moves to evict them and in May, received a judgement for “ejectment” of the tenants. However, two were still there by early June.

Publix has terminated Ms Tran’s employment.

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