World news wrapup: 21 November 2019

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Amazon Pharmacy: it’s here; pharmacists provide emergency meds to stranded shoppers; Purdue Pharma settling on opioid litigation

Somerville, Massachusetts: Amazon Pharmacy has arrived, following a rebranding, reports CNN Business.

The mail-order pharmacy PillPack, which Amazon acquired in 2018 amid significant speculation as to the scale of the giant’s expansion into the health space, was initially called, “PillPack, an Amazon company,” upon acquisition.

Now, it has been renamed “PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy”.

A spokesperson for PillPack later told the Union Leader that the rebranding was an “administrative update” and that PillPack remains an independently operated subsidiary of Amazon.

“There are no service changes for either existing or new customers,” they said. “PillPack remains the name of our brand and service.”


Sheffield, England: When flood waters rose around the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield last week, many shoppers ended up having to stay there overnight.

Chemist+Druggist reports that after the centre closed at 6.30pm, many people still could not leave because of the flooding and a resultant traffic jam – including some of the staff at the flagship Boots store, which opened earlier this year as one of the chain’s “stores of the future”.

Pharmacists Raghu Mamindla, Cher Chua and Jessica Lolli stayed at the pharmacy and listened out for emergency services updates regarding when they could leave.

“Despite many of us not knowing how and when we would be able to get home, we kept the pharmacy open as [long] as possible and supplied medicines to patients as emergency supply,” Mr Mamindla told C+D.

“On that day, I’m surprised how many customers who got stuck in Meadowhall came for an emergency supply of inhalers, antidiabetics and blood pressure medication,” he said, saying the team was “very proud” that it had been able to help.


White Plains, New York: Purdue Pharma LP has received court approval for its framework for settling the US opioid litigation, reports The New York Times.

Under the agreement, the entire value of Purdue is to be contributed to helping address the opioid crisis.

The settlement is estimated to provide more than $10 billion of value to address the opioid crisis.

The key elements of the settlement include the owners of Purdue contributing all of its assets to a trust or other entity established for the benefit of claimants and the American people; the new company (“NewCo”) being governed by a new board selected by claimants and approved by the Bankruptcy Court; NewCo potentially contributing tens of millions of doses of opioid overdose reversal and addiction treatment medications at no or low cost; NewCo agreeing to be bound permanently by injunctive relief, including marketing restrictions on the sale and promotion of opioids; and in addition to 100% of Purdue, the Sackler families contributing a minimum of $3 billion, with the potential for substantial further monetary contributions from the sales of their ex-US pharmaceutical businesses.

“This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis,” said Steve Miller, Chairman of Purdue’s Board of Directors.


Rabat, Morocco: The director of the Moroccan Ministry of Health, Jamal Taoufik, has left the ministry after it was alleged that he presided over a series of irregularities, the Morocco World News reports.

A parliamentary report alleged that Mr Taoufik “flouted the law” when the department sourced pharmaceuticals from companies which were not producing them in the country, including offering them special deals worth billions of Moroccan dirhams.

When this happened, medicines manufactured locally dropped to 55% of the market, from 80%.

Mr Taoufik also allegedly oversaw the loss of “tens of millions” of dirhams when medicines intended for pharmacies were allowed to expire and had to be destroyed, while pharmacies themselves suffered medicines shortages.

“Other criticisms of Taoufik ranged from the pricing of drugs to lack of oversight into the importation of medical devices,” wrote Susanna Spurgeon, an editor at the Morocco World News.


USA: The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning letter to Greenbrier International, Inc, which does business as the discount variety chain Dollar Tree, operating in more than 14,000 locations across the United States.

The letter warns Dollar Tree for its allegedly having received OTC drugs produced by foreign manufacturers found to have serious violations of federal law. The warning letter outlines multiple violations of current good manufacturing practices at contract manufacturers used to produce Dollar Tree’s Assured Brand OTC drugs as well as other drug products sold at Dollar Tree and Family Dollar stores.

The warning letter details Dollar Tree’s receipt of adulterated drugs from manufacturers that received FDA warning letters in 2018. The warning letter also details Dollar Tree’s use of contract manufacturers that also received warning letters for similar issues between 2016 and 2019.

Manufacturers that received these warning letters were placed on import alert, which are used to prevent potentially violative products from being imported into the US market. The FDA notified Dollar Tree of warning letters sent to these manufacturers at the time the warning letters were sent.

The warning letters sent to the contract manufacturers used by Dollar Tree show a pattern of serious violations of the law, such as not testing raw materials or finished drugs for pathogens and quality.

The FDA’s warning letter to Dollar Tree details the corrective actions the agency requested. Among those, the FDA has requested the company implement a system to ensure that they do not import adulterated drugs.

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