World news wrapup: 22 April 2021

Sana Masood. Image via GoFundMe.
Sana Masood. Image via GoFundMe.

Felt art pharmacy so convincing that patients try to buy medicines; overwhelming response to fundraiser in the name of pharmacist who died of COVID-19; Dublin court “at a loss” over fraud

London, England: An art installation-performance involving a pharmacy recreated in felt has been so convincing that customers have attempted to buy medicines there, reports The Art Newspaper.

Artist Lucy Sparrow has recreated a number of retail spaces, including a Soho sex shop and a New York bodega, in felt, in the past, saying she likes the “cheap and cheerful” medium.

“There’s a lot of snobbery that detracts from the serious art making that goes into this,” she told reporter Louisa Buck, saying that she is “more than a little obsessed with products, packaging and the order represented by the retail environment”.

Now, Ms Sparrow has recreated a fully stocked pharmacy, complete with shelves full of branded product and a dispensary full of prescription medicines, in felt at the Lyndsey Ingram Gallery in Mayfair.

It has taken her and her team two years to painstakingly sew the products.

She is appearing every day of the exhibition at the “shop,” wearing a white coat and giving attendees NFS (National Felt Service) scripts as receipts.

She said that the pharmacy is a “very unique and different place” with “a whole lot of intimacy not apparent in any high street shop.

“It’s an absolute labour of love to get it all right.”

Parts of the installation can be viewed here.


Prescot, England: A fundraiser in the name of a pharmacist who died of COVID-19 has hit two-thirds of its target in only three days.

Sana Masood, a pharmacist who worked at Neil’s Pharmacy in Prescot, Lancashire, was described by her employer as a “wonderfully thoughtful, generous and kind person” who was a “very high calibre pharmacist” with huge potential.

He told Chemist+Druggist that Ms Masood was “always happy and upbeat, which reflected in her work, into her teammates and the people she dealt with as a pharmacist”.

Her best friend, Ambreen Ghaffur – a specialist pharmacist at Pinderfields General Hospital – said that despite Ms Masood’s extreme vigilance during the COVID-19 pandemic, she had been admitted to hospital due to complications of her type 1 diabetes. There, she caught COVID-19 and passed away on 1 April.

Ms Ghaffur started a fundraiser, aiming to raise £9,000 (AUD$16,242) for a school in her name to be built in an impoverished part of rural Pakistan from which Ms Masood’s family originally comes, which is to be built by her husband and brothers.

Originally the plan was to raise £2,500 (AUD$4512) for a single classroom, but an “overwhelming response” to the cause saw the family raise the target. At the time of writing, £6,900 had been raised.

The fundraiser will continue for the month of Ramadan, and any funds raised over the £9,000 target are to go to Diabetes UK. It can be found here.


Dublin, Ireland: The former owner of a number of pharmacies has pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Court to seven counts of fraudulently obtaining payments from Ireland’s Health Service Executive.

The Irish Times reports that John Corr had owned five pharmacies where duplicate claims for reimbursement from the HSE’s Primary Care Reimbursement Scheme, which pays health workers including pharmacists for free or reduced-cost professional services.

An investigation into higher than usual payments at the Mell, County Louth pharmacy owned by Mr Corr led to a focus on all five of his stores, revealing that 94 patients had duplicate claims made about them.

Mr Corr was charged with obtaining €3,988.79 (AUD$6219) by deception.

The Court heard that he made full restitution and that he had lost his HSE community pharmacy contract, meaning that he could not realistically operate pharmacies.

Judge Martin Nolan said that the court is “at a loss” as to why the pharmacist, who had been practising for 31 years and lost his businesses as a result of the conduct, engaged in this behaviour.

“To say this is a perplexing case is an understatement,” he said, stating an intention to impose an order requiring that the former pharmacy owner complete 240 hours of community service in lieu of a 2.5 year prison sentence, providing hie is considered to be suitable for community service.


Alexandria, Virginia: A pharmacy owner, pharmacists, a pharmacy technician, and a pharmaceutical sales specialist have been sentenced over multiple health care fraud conspiracies involving kickbacks and fraudulent billings, resulting in nearly US$8 million (AUD$10.367 million) in losses to health care benefit programs.

According to a statement by the US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Virginia, Mohamed Abdalla owned multiple pharmacies in northern Virginia, including the Medex Health Pharmacy in Falls Church and the Royal Care Pharmacy in Fairfax.

As the owner of these pharmacies, Mr Abdalla oversaw and executed two related schemes to defraud health care benefit programs.

One scheme involved the payment or receipt of unlawful kickbacks for expensive drugs and devices in violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

From at least January 2014 through at least the end of 2018, Mr Abdalla participated in several schemes to pay kickbacks for the referral of prescriptions for compound medications and for an expensive naloxone auto-injector device.

Mr Abdalla and his conspirators then billed federal health care benefit programs, including Medicare and TRICARE, the Department of Defense’s health care program, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute.

Mr Abdalla obtained more than $2 million (AUD$2.59 million) from these schemes.

Another scheme involved billing federal, state, and private health care benefit programs for numerous expensive drugs and devices that were not medically necessary, not prescribed by a physician, or were not received by a beneficiary.

“This investigation is a prime example of how kickback schemes undermine the integrity of the U.S. military healthcare system, and degrade the acquisition process,” said Christopher Dillard, Special Agent in Charge of the DCIS Mid-Atlantic Field Office.

“These sentencings should send a clear warning that DCIS and its investigative partners will vigorously pursue fraudsters intent on lining their pockets with tax dollars earmarked for the care of our Warfighters.”

Mr Abdallah was sentenced to four years in prison for his role in the conspiracies.

For their roles, pharmacists Onkur Lal and Michael Beatty were sentenced to three years, and one year and one day in prison.

Pharmacy technician and general manager of Royal Care was sentenced to two years in prison, while pharmaceutical sales specialist Daniel Tyler Walker was sentenced to 15 months. Another man, Seth Michael Myers, received a two-year sentence.

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