World news wrapup: 21 June 2018

Pharmacy worker stole to feed child; NZ study to examine script cost barrier to health; inadequate staffing becoming a “live issue” in the UK

Middlesbrough, UK: A woman who had previously worked in a pharmacy broke down in tears in the dock while being sentenced on a theft charge.

Jennifer Lane, who worked on a zero-hour contract at the Martonside Pharmacy in Middlesbrough, had stolen 40 boxes of zopiclone, the court heard.

Ms Lane had access to the pharmacy’s computer and had had the ability to order medication, and the thefts were noticed when the pharmacy’s head office raised concerns about the amount of the sleeping tablets which had been ordered.

Ms Lane had sold the medication to an unknown associate for £15 (AUD$26.70) in order to buy food for her daughter following the cessation of her welfare benefits, she said.

Ms Lane left 10 boxes of the drug in the pharmacy toilet in a bid to end her own offending, the Gazette Live reports.

Judge Howard Crowson said that the thefts had smacked of “desperation” and sentenced her to a one-year community order with 80 hours’ unpaid work and 15 days’ rehabilitation activity.


Dunedin, New Zealand: A new study led by Professor Pauline Norris of the University of Otago is set to look into the extent to which prescription charges are a barrier to better health outcomes.

The study is one of a number recently granted funding by New Zealand’s Health Research Council, and has attracted NZ$1,035,525 (AUD$967,810) in financial support.

While prescription charges in New Zealand are low compared with many other countries, many people report that they cannot afford the medicines, the authors say.

They intend to conduct a randomised controlled trial of prescription charges to examine whether their removal could improve health, by recruiting people with diabetes and/or mental health conditions requiring medicines, who live in deprived neighbourhoods.

They will pay prescription charges for one group (comprising half the participants) for 12 months, and compare how many days patients from each group spend in hospitals, to see whether free scripts make a difference.


UK: The General Pharmaceutical Council has named the top reasons why pharmacies fail its inspections – and for the first time, inadequate staffing levels have entered the top five.

Between January and March 2018, 27 pharmacies failed to meet the standard of having enough suitably qualified and skilled staff to provide safe and effective pharmacy services, Chemist + Druggist reports.

The issue has shot to a joint third place – alongside adequate record-keeping for the safe provision of pharmacy services.

C+D reports that typical staffing problems observed by the Council’s inspectors include “inadequate staff numbers to cope with the workload; staffing levels not being adequately considered before taking on a new service; and inadequate provision to accommodate planned or unplanned absences”.

GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin recently told C+D that while the numbers of pharmacies which failed inspection were small, staffing levels were nevertheless a “live issue” which the GPhC is monitoring closely.

The top reason for inspection failure was failure to meet the standard where “Medicines and medical devices are: obtained from a reputable source; safe and fit for purpose; stored securely; safeguarded from unauthorised access; supplied to the patient safely; and disposed of safely and securely”.

This was followed by failure to meet the standard covering identifying and managing risks associated with providing pharmacy services.

In fifth place was failure to meet the standard of managing and delivering pharmacy services safely and effectively.


US: Snapchat and a number of major sites are now requiring American and Canadian pharmacies to be verified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy if they want to advertise with them.

Drug Topics reports that Snapchat has recently changed its advertising policy to require that any prescription medicine or health service must be approved in each of the countries in which they want to advertise.

The move follows similar policy tightening by Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Twitter.

“Our hope is that more social media sites follow these companies in putting patient safety first,” said NABP President Susan Ksiazek in a statement.

“Consumers who buy medicines from NABP-verified websites can be confident they are buying medicine from trustworthy, legitimate pharmacies.”

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