World news wrapup: 23 May 2019


Opioid volume drops in the US; first US state gets online naloxone; England gets first click-and-collect meds lockers in supermarkets

US: The United States saw a 17% fall in prescription opioid dosages in 2018, reports Pharmacy Times.

According to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, this is the largest ever recorded fall in opioid volume recorded in a single year in the US.

While opioid volume has been dropping since 2011, when it reached its highest level, the decline has been smaller to date – 4% on average from 2012 to 2016, and 12% in 2017.

“While prescription opioid usage continues to decline, we saw many more people receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction,” Murray Aitken, IQVIA senior vice president and executive director of the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, said.

“Our research shows new therapy starts for MATs increased to 1.2 million people in 2018, nearly a 300% increase compared with those seeking addiction help in 2014,” he said.

“This is an important indicator of the effects of increased funding and support for treatment programs to address addiction.”


Dallas, Texas: Texas has become the first US state to allow naloxone to be purchased online, reports the Dallas News.

Naloxone is being offered via the website, which was created by Chicago pharmacist James Lott.

“We’re focused on social benefit,” Mr Lott said. “This is going to change lives and expand access to people all over the country.”

He had the idea for the site through his work in a pharmacy, where he was able to see the effect of the opioid crisis first-hand, due to doctors prescribing the medicines liberally.

Mr Lott says he is hopeful that removing stigma from purchasing naloxone, as well as improving access to the opioid antagonist, will help Americans be prepared in the event of opioid overdose.

He says he hopes to expand the service to all 50 US states and to make naloxone more affordable.

“In five years, I want everyone to know us for essential life-saving medicine,” he said.


England, UK: A supermarket group is about to start a trial of what it described as the UK’s first “Amazon-style” click and collect locker service for prescription drugs, reports the Pharmaceutical Journal.

The Co-op supermarket group had sold all its pharmacies in 2014, but is now re-entering the market with the launch of a health app, which it says will be the first of several moves into the digital space.

It has created a repeat prescription app which will let patients collect their medicines from lockers located in Co-op supermarkets, using a PIN code.

To date the service is being piloted in only five supermarkets in England’s north-west, but the Journal reports that Co-op is also offering a prescription delivery service, to either patients’ homes, or to other community pharmacies.

“The pharmacy sector is at the start of a digital revolution, as consumers increasingly look for more flexibility and convenience in accessing their medication,” said Co-op managing director Tim Davies.

“Our offer will give customers a range of ways to get hold of their medication, with the knowledge that the service is being provided by a brand they know and can trust, in a way that best suits them.” 


UK: Boots has received criticism for using plastic bags instead of paper to package some prescription medicine, reports The Guardian.

Boots vowed to reduce its use of plastic in packaging in 2018, signing up to the UK’s Plastic Pact, which lets retailers voluntarily try to cut their use of single-use plastic packaging.

Greenpeace criticised the fact that Boots is still using plastic bags, saying that it was showing “not only corporate incompetence, but a complete disinterest in upholding promises made to their loyal customers.”

However Boots has countered claims that the use of plastic was a cost-saving initiative, reports Chemist+Druggist.

It is instead a measure which “removes the routine dispensing workload from individual stores”.

The medicines in question are distributed from a dispensing hub in Preston to Boots stores around the UK.

Boots says that use of the hub helps free up pharmacists to offer advice and services such as flu vaccinations; it also says that the plastic packaging makes up a very small minority of Boots packaging, and that the hub uses it as it is robust and reduces spillage.

The plastic bags are “100% recyclable,” it says.

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