World news wrapup: 28 May 2020

packet of contraceptive pills on pink background

UK pharmacies ask BoJo for financial help; NZ faces contraceptives shortage; New York State bans pharmacy tobacco sales

UK: The National Pharmacy Association has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that its members are facing an “unprecedented” financial crisis thanks to COVID-19, reports the Mirror.

Asking the PM for help, the letter says that “Pharmacies are under huge financial and operational pressures due to Covid-19.”

The sector was advanced £300million (more than AUD$555 million) to help see it through the pandemic crisis, but the funds were essentially a loan which will be “reconciled” across 2020 and 2021 under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework five-year agreement.

“Local pharmacies have incurred considerable costs for staying open throughout the coronavirus crisis, including large increases in staff and medicine costs, outlays for security, PPE and deliveries,” the letter says.

“A special Covid-19 payment to cover these exceptional costs would help provide the financial stability that we need to keep our doors open.”

NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said that “Financially speaking, many pharmacies would have been better off if they’d closed their doors to the public altogether throughout much of March and April and things remain very tight.

“But, as caring health care professionals, they have kept the doors open – often at considerable personal cost.

“Pharmacists are acutely aware that they are the frontline of the nation’s response to coronavirus and are bearing a heavy burden in order to keep people safe and well.”


New Zealand: Women across the Tasman are speaking out about a shortage of contraceptives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Stuff.

One woman who spoke to Stuff, Hansi Bennett, had been advised to use an oral contraceptive pill while waiting to be given Mirena to help manage endometriosis, but doctors and pharmacists “declined” to prescribe it for her as they said the OCP was in shortage.

“The pharmacy weren’t being [difficult], they just said ‘we can’t get any’. And I wondered, are people stockpiling this?” she said.

She was able to find only one option, a non-subsidised oral contraceptive for around NZ$50 (AUD$47).

Fiona Tolich, trustee of advocacy group Patient Voice Aotearoa, said that the supply issues could impact the wellbeing of women needed contraceptives to prevent pregnancy as well as help manage conditions such as endometriosis.

“Of significant concern is that less than two months ago we were told by Pharmac [the Government agency which manages subsidy] that the supply issue was not Covid-related and that supply was expected mid-April. Why are we learning there is an issue now over a month later?”

Dispensing limits have now been put on the OCP.


New York State, US: New York State has just legislated to ban pharmacies from selling tobacco products, reports the Press Republican.

The state has also decided to ban the sale of flavoured products for consumption via e-cigarette, as well as tightening controls around the carrier oils used in the devices.

“What I love about New York’s policy is that it’s stronger than the federal policy,” the Tobacco-Free Clinton Franklin Essex program director said. 

“It really shows New York’s commitment to reducing our youth’s initiation to nicotine.”

While some pharmacies had already decided to stock tobacco products out of sight, such as behind a counter, the ban now means that they cannot be sold at all in the sector, including in any larger stores, such as a WalMart Superstore, which have their own pharmacy.


Edinburgh, Scotland: Police Scotland have appealed for information and asked the general public not to take medicines which do not belong to them, after a pharmacy was robbed on Monday.

The alleged robbers broke into the Tollcross Pharmacy at around 6am on Monday and left with about 1000 anti-anxiety pills, including almost 1,000 diazepam tablets, as well as mirtazapine and olanzapine.

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