World news wrapup: 25 October 2018

Pharmacy workers racially abused in Sweden; UK government urged to reject remote pharmacist proposals; US woman denied miscarriage treatment on religious grounds

Sweden: More and more, pharmacy customers are racially abusing pharmacy staff in Sweden, the broadcaster SVT reports.

The Local Sweden reports that some Swedes are refusing to be served in pharmacies by people of colour, telling them they want to be served by “a Swede” instead.

Some pharmacy workers have been addressed using racial slurs including one beginning with ‘n’, while others are being ordered to remove Muslim headwear and being told they need to “fit in to Swedish society”.

Camilla Ås, a spokeswoman for the state-owned pharmaceuticals retailer Apoteket AB, told SVT that such incidents are increasing.

“Several of our employees have reported it. Occasionally we have had to deny service to some customers who have behaved in a hateful manner,” Ms Ås said.

The pharmacy chains Kronans Apotek and Apotek Hjärtat also report that similar incidents are on the rise in their stores, with the latter having reported about 15 customers to law enforcement over their racist behaviour.

Pharmacy workers are left in the uncomfortable situation of being abused by people who have a genuine need for medicines.

“Many of our customers are ill and suffer from mental health problems. That is something you have to take into consideration,” Sara Mohammar, the head of human resources at Apoteksgruppen, said.

“We have anti-discrimination policies that deal with threat and harassment between co-workers, but we haven’t had a focus on how to deal with customers.”


Petoskey, Michigan: A woman has complained to the Meijer group that a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for misoprostol to help complete a miscarriage.

Rachel Peterson, from Ionia, went to the Meijer store in Petoskey for the medicine but the pharmacist refused, citing his own religious views. The man then refused to transfer the script to another pharmacy so that she could fill it.

“He said that he was a good Catholic male and that he couldn’t in good conscience give me this medication because it’s used for abortions, and he could not prescribe that,” Ms Peterson told Detroit’s Free Press.

“When I divulged to him that the fetus was no longer viable, and that … I needed to progress the situation further, he said, ‘Well, that’s your word and I don’t believe you,’ and he refused to fill it.”

She then had to drive for more than three hours to another store, where the pharmacist had difficulty getting the script back from the Petoskey pharmacist. Eventually this second pharmacist was able to dispense the medicine.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wrote to Meijer, explaining that the pharmacist’s actions were discriminatory as misoprostol has a number of indications, including the prevention of ulcers.

A spokesperson for Meijer said the pharmacist is no longer an employee at the group, but did not confirm whether his employment was terminated by the employer.


Thailand: Pharmacy organisations are protesting the submission of a draft Drug Bill to Cabinet, claiming it puts the public at risk by allowing unqualified people to prescribe drugs.

The Nation reports that the country’s Food and Drug Administration has been asked to withdraw the bill by the pharmacist networks, who claim that the FDA has “distorted” their opinions.

The pharmacist groups have threatened to “upgrade” their protest.

Community Pharmacy Association of Thailand board member Jaranwit sae Pua said the details of the Bill had constantly changed between submissions and that it would let people without “adequate knowledge” to prescribe medicines.

According to The Nation, many of the pharmacists are worried that the Bill will allow individuals holding diplomas, rather than qualified pharmacists, to prescribe medicines at convenience stores.

FDA secretary general Tares Krassanairawiwong reportedly said that while under the proposed legislation pharmacist could operate without pharmacists, this would only be extended to about 2,800 existing stores, and only until their current licence holders lave.

The FDA is likely to revise the bill based on feedback from pharmacists, it said.


UK: Pharmacist Mariam Ahmed has created a petition asking the government not to implement proposals which she says could risk patient safety.

“Whilst a pharmacy is open it is a fundamental patient right that a qualified pharmacist is available on site at all times to consult in person, without the need for an appointment,” she writes in the petition.

“Patient safety would be jeopardised if a pharmacist wasn’t present in a pharmacy.

“The government has proposed that pharmacists could end up signed in as the Responsible Pharmacist for more than one pharmacy at a time and therefore not physically available to patients.

“The government’s proposals will ultimately lead to medicines dispensing and supply taking place without the supervision of a pharmacist. This will be detrimental to patient care and safety and the legislative changes must not go ahead.”

To date the petition has more than 2,200 signatures.

It has the support of pharmacist union Pharmacists’ Defence Association.

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