World news wrapup: 25 March 2021

US pharmacy giant apologises after refusing to vaccinate undocumented immigrants; call to change legislation on moral objections; largest CWH for NZ

Southern California: Rite Aid has issued an apology after two of its stores in Southern California refused to vaccinate undocumented immigrants against COVID-19, reports ABC News.

In one case, a man spoke to KABC describing how his childcare provider, an undocumented woman, brought her foreign consular identification to a Rite Aid pharmacy in Mission Hills, hoping to be vaccinated at the store.

However on two occasions she was denied the vaccine because she did not have a US social security card.

The woman was reportedly left distraught by the incidents.

She was later vaccinated.

The second case involved a Rite Aid in Laguna Niguel, where another undocumented child care worker was twice denied the vaccine, again leaving her “in tears,” ABC News reported.

In this case the pharmacist had demanded a US social security card before they would vaccinate, saying US citizens had priority.

Rite Aid sent a statement to ABC News saying that, “In such an unprecedented rollout, there are going to be mistakes and there will be always areas for providers to improve — we’re seeking out those opportunities every day”.

The pharmacy giant apologised to the two women.


Tucker, Georgia: Walgreens has expressed regret after a Georgia woman was denied medication to manage her miscarriage.

Sarah Cofer told Fox 5 Atlanta that she and her husband were trying to expand their family, but she had experienced two miscarriages to date this year.

The second was a missed miscarriage. Her doctor offered to write a script so that she could manage the problem of retained tissue medically, rather than surgically.

She accepted this offer and her doctor wrote the script, saying it should be ready at the local Walgreens when her husband went there to get the medicine.

However, it was not, which meant the doctor had to repeatedly call both the pharmacy and Ms Cofer to find out what was happening.

Ms Cofer said her doctor had told her that the pharmacy actually did have the medication, but the pharmacist had refused to dispense it, saying, “That’s wrong. That’s an abortion drug. I’m not giving it to her”. The pharmacist refused to supply the medicine until the doctor was able to explain it was to manage a missed miscarriage.

Ms Cofer told Fox that she wanted Georgia law—which allows pharmacists to not only refuse to dispense based on ethical or moral beliefs, but also to refuse to refer or provide notification for patients—changed.

“They should have to notify you and say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to fill this, take this somewhere else’,” she said.

Walgreens said in a statement that it was “very sorry for the tragic loss our patient experienced” and that it was investigating the matter.


Christchurch, New Zealand: New Zealand’s largest Chemist Warehouse inside a shopping centre is set to open in spring, according to Shopping Centre News.

The discount giant currently has 21 stores across the Tasman, anticipated to grow to 30 by the time it opens its new store at Christchurch’s The Palms Shopping Centre.

The new pharmacy will have a footprint of more than 1,000m square.

“Our free prescription offer will also be available at our The Palms store, meaning New Zealanders will not be charged the $5 prescription fee, a saving we are proud to be able to provide shoppers,” said Azman Haroon, New Zealand’s Chemist Warehouse CEO.

“Since 2017, we have saved Kiwis over $15 million,” he said.


Detroit, Michigan: A Michigan pharmacist and pharmacy technician have been charged with conspiracy to illegally distribute prescription drugs, Acting US Attorney Saima Mohsin has announced.

Pharacist Cosmos George, 46, of Southfield and pharmacy technician Tarielle Dixon, 33, of Detroit, who have been charged over a US$1.2 million (AUD$1,577,592) opioid distribution conspiracy.

The indictment alleges that from September 2017 to June 2020, the pair conspired with others to dispense a large number of prescription opioids for fictitious patients who did not have a legitimate medical need for the drugs.

Both dispensed addictive and highly diverted scripts for the same opioid distribution ring: primarily oxycodone and oxymorphone.

The indictment further alleges that the pharmacies dispensed more than 41,995 dosage units of Schedule II opioid prescriptions during the course of the conspiracy.  These controlled substances had a conservative street value in excess of $1,200,000.

If convicted of the charges, each face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

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