World news wrapup: 23 November 2017

UK needle exchange scrapped after attacks; Alberta privacy breach; British pharmacist cleared of dad’s murder

Shelton, England: A pharmacist has put an end to the needle exchange service at his two pharmacies after attacks on his staff.

The Stoke Sentinel reports that Navid Kaleem, owner of the Shelton Pharmacy and nearby Norfolk Street Pharmacy, was running a program for the safe disposal of needles and provision of clean needles, due to a significant drug injecting problem in the area.

But in one incident, a pharmacy worker had a knife held to their throat, and in another, a man threatened a worker with a blood-stained needle.

Mr Kaleem told the Sentinel that his staff’s safety had to trump the needs of the drug injecting community.

“The staff don’t deserve that kind of treatment,” he said.

“It’s a shame but we weren’t prepared to take the risk. If it was a one off then maybe we could forgive it but I have to consider the safety of my staff which is paramount.”


Guildford, Surrey: Pharmacist Bipin Desai, who earlier this month faced Court on a murder charge after assisting his father’s suicide, has walked free after a High Court judge threw out the case.

The Court had heard that Mr Desai mixed highly concentrated morphine into a fruit smoothie and had given it to his father; then when his father went to sleep, Mr Desai injected him with insulin.

The Telegraph reports that Mr Justice Green said there was no basis for a murder conviction and the elder Mr Desai had wished to die.

The evidence “unequivocally supports the defence position that this is assisted suicide but not murder,” he said.

He told the younger Mr Desai that “your acts of assistance were acts of pure compassion and mercy.”

Mr Desai was given a nine-month jail sentence suspended for nine months, relating to two charges of theft of the morphine and insulin from the pharmacy where he worked.


Albuquerque, New Mexico: A lawsuit has been filed against Walgreens after one of its pharmacists refused to dispense medication for a birth control insertion procedure, the Albuquerque Journal reports.

A teenager and her mother are seeking damages and requesting that Walgreens alter its policy on making decisions based on personal beliefs, so that women can have scripts filled “without experiencing discrimination”.

The teenager’s mother had presented to the store with a script for misoprostol, to prepare the teenager’s cervix for IUD insertion.

The suit accuses Walgreens of violating New Mexico’s state Human Rights Act, as “had (she) been a man with a valid prescription for the same medication, the prescription would have been filled”. It points out that the drug is used to help reduce the risk of gastric ulcer, as well as its gynaecological uses.

An unlawful discriminatory burden is placed on women who are sent to a different pharmacy for “validly prescribed and in-stock reproductive health medication,” the Journal reports.


Alberta, Canada: Former Covenant House Health pharmacist Basel Alsaadi has been sentenced to three months of house arrest followed by three months of curfew, after he was convicted on charges of improperly accessing personal health information in violation of Alberta’s Health Information Act.

Mr Alsaadi accessed the demographic information, diagnostic images and laboratory results of 104 people, violating their privacy, Big Law Business reports.

Only eight convictions have been made relating to inappropriate access to health information since the health privacy legislation was introduced in 2001, and Mr Alsaadi’s sentence is stronger than usual.

“It ups the stakes for the consequences of inappropriately accessing health information,” David Fraser, privacy partner at McInnes Cooper in Halifax, told Bloomberg Law.

Mr Alsaadi is also still answerable to unprofessional conduct allegations which will see him face an internal disciplinary process conducted by the Alberta College of Pharmacists.

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