World news wrapup: 26 August 2021

Abused pharmacists lauded as “heroes”; one US chain accused of losing most controlled drug doses in Massachusetts; Ireland’s pharmacy accessibility recognised

Washington DC: The American Pharmacists Association has condemned recent abuse heaped on pharmacists in Springfield, Missouri, who were subjected to warnings from anti-vaccinators that they could be “executed” for providing COVID-19 vaccination services.

“We deplore the intimidation and verbal assaults directed toward pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other pharmacy personnel earlier this week at a pharmacy in Springfield, MO,” APhA president Sandra Leal said.

“APhA strongly believes that all members of our pharmacy workforce should be safe in their work environment.

“We cannot state this strongly enough: Anyone who threatens or intimidates pharmacy personnel must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

“There is no place for this kind of behaviour in our communities, when so many are working tirelessly to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The agitator’s arguments are clearly absurd and pull attention away from critically needed, factual information that our patients and the public deserve. All authorised COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death. They are the best tools we have to control the pandemic.

“We are especially proud of the poise and professionalism that the pharmacists and pharmacy personnel demonstrated during this incident.

“They are representative of the hundreds of thousands of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other pharmacy personnel who stepped forward from the very beginning of the pandemic to ensure that patients had continuous access to their medications, tested patients for COVID-19, and administered hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccines.

“Like all of our essential workers, they are heroes of this pandemic.”


Massachusetts, USA: GBH news has alleged that CVS stores in Massachusetts have been responsible for losing nearly 70% of controlled drug doses that went missing in the state in 2020.

While reporter Colman M. Herman notes that CVS is the largest pharmacy chain in Massachusetts, he reports that it lost nearly 7,000 doses of controlled substances last year.

Next in line was Walgreens, the second-largest chain in the state, which lost about 1,300 doses.

Records obtained from the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy show that the drugs in question included oxycodone, amphetamine, methylphenidate, morphine, methadone and fentanyl.

A CVS spokesperson told GBH that this was not a major problem.

“We have stringent policies and procedures in place to help prevent the loss of controlled substances, as well as to help detect it when it occurs,” CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said.

“Drug diversion is typically discovered through our own internal processes and investigations.”

He said that given CVS operates 420 stores in the state, compared to other banner groups “the number of controlled substance loss incidents we had last year was extremely low”.

Mr Herman writes that CVS lost 16 pills on average for each store, while Walgreens lost an average of five at each of its 245 locations.

Todd Brown, vice chairman of the Department of Pharmacy and Health Systems Sciences at the Northeastern University School of Pharmacy, told the station that “Historically, CVS has had a problem with missing controlled substances for some time now”.


Ireland: A new study published by the Irish Pharmacy Union has found that the pharmacy sector is becoming more important to the general public due to COVID-19.

More than half of the people surveyed – 54% – said they were seeing their GP less often than before the pandemic, and many were talking to their pharmacists instead, reports the Irish Times.

Only 51% of people said they found GPs accessible, and 13% said hospitals were – compared to 85% who said pharmacies were accessible.

A total of 39% of respondents said their pharmacist was their most important health care professional, a jump of more than a third from the previous survey.

Respondents appreciated pharmacies’ longer hours of operation, with only 31% saying GPs are convenient in this regard, compared to 75% for pharmacies.

“The role of the community pharmacy has been expanding and increasing in importance for many years,” said IPU president Dermot Twomey.

“This accelerated during the pandemic as pharmacies kept their doors open during each lockdown. With people visiting GPs less, or GPs favouring virtual appointments, the accessibility of pharmacies is driving healthcare in our communities,


UK: The British government has not changed its funding for the community pharmacy sector for the 2021/22 year, reports Pharmacy Business – resulting in disappointment amongst stakeholders.

Funding for the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework remains at £2.592 billion (AUD$4.91 billion) for the third consecutive year.

“Pharmacists have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic,” said English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind.

“We are disappointed that the positive impact demonstrated by community pharmacy has not been recognised through increased investment.

“This is a real terms funding cut delivered through the frozen core funding. Pharmacists working in community pharmacy will understandably be demoralised by this.”

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