World news wrapup: 29 July 2021

Hospital pharmacist allegedly charged $5 to $7 for purported COVID jab; fungal meningitis outbreak pharmacists receive new sentences; community rallies around vandalised pharmacy

Diamond Harbour, India: The Telegraph India reports that a pharmacist has been caught administering what may or may not be COVID-19 vaccines.

Police alleged that a pharmacist attached to a primary health centre in Diamond Harbour had acquired a product he said was the Covishield vaccine, and had been attending “small camps” in homes in nearby Sonarpur.

At these events he would administer the product.

Police said that they had confiscated two vials of a product labelled “Covishield,” which were undergoing testing to ascertain their contents.

The pharmacist was in charge of a vaccination unit at a Diamond Harbour hospital, which meant he could have accessed genuine vaccines, police said.

He had allegedly been charging people Rs300 (AUD$5.47) to Rs400 (AUD$7.30) for each dose.

It is believed that he had administered the liquid to at least 40 people.

“Most of them have got text messages from Co-Win confirming their vaccination. We are in process of verifying how he managed to do this,” said an officer from Sonarpur police station.


Boston, Massachusetts: Pharmacists have been handed longer sentences for their roles in the disastrous 2012 contamination of compounded drugs which have to date killed at least 100 people.

An appeals court had vacated the sentences initially handed to Glenn Chin, who had been a supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, and Barry Cadden, the pharmacy’s president, saying that these needed to be reconsidered.

Mr Chin had initially been sentenced to eight years in prison for his role in the fungal meningitis outbreak caused by preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate prepared at the NECC.

The injections had been sent out to patients across 20 US states, and hundreds became sick.

One public health official likened conditions at the compounding pharmacy to a “fungal zoo”.

Mr Chin has now been re-sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison, report US media including CBS Boston and Mass Live. He was ordered to pay US$473,584 (AUD$643,631) in forfeiture as well as US$82 million (AUD$111,443,330) in restitution.

Barry Cadden, who had been the NECC’s head pharmacist as well as its owner, was re-sentenced to 14 years following an initial sentence of nine years. He was ordered to pay US$1.4 million (AUD$1,902,691) and restitution of $82 million.

The two had been found guilty of fraud and other charges relating to the outbreak, but found not guilty on second-degree murder charges.

Prosecutors had been hoping for a sentence of 17 years or more for both the pharmacists.

Mr Chin and Mr Cadden are still facing murder charges in Michigan.


South Africa: Pharmacists are expected to be able to prescribe HIV medicines under a program called Pharmacist-Initiated Management of ART, or PIMART.

All Africa reports that South Africa’s pharmacist prescribing program will be the first of its kind in the world – and possibly set a precedent for other countries to follow.

More than seven million South Africans have HIV, and around five million are taking antiretroviral treatment, making it the largest ART program in the world.

Before nurses were permitted to begin patients on ART, only clinicians – for the most part, based in hospitals – were able to initiate patients onto the treatment. The 2010 introduction of nurse-initiated treatment is credited with a significant contribution to the numbers of patients on the program.

However, many people are still not started on treatment until they have already suffered from conditions related to their HIV.

Jackie Maimin, CEO of the Independent Community Pharmacy Association, told All Africa that men who do not go to doctors may still attend pharmacies for over-the-counter medicines.

“We have men coming in for all sorts of over-the-counter stuff. Men don’t like to go to clinics and don’t like to go and see the doctor, but they will pop into the pharmacy,” she said.

“Pharmacies are really in the communities, they are even pharmacies in the most rural of areas.”

Pharmacists wishing to participate will need to apply for and receive a PIMART permit.


Ambleside, Cumbria: A pharmacy has seen its local community rally around it after it was sprayed with anti-vaccination graffiti.

Chemist+Druggist reports that the Thomas Bell Pharmacy was graffitied with commentary including “1,500 deaths” and “1 million adverse reactions” on Sunday morning.

Its owner, Ravi Voruganti, was texted and sent a picture by a concerned customer that morning, he said.

“That started the ball rolling with reporting to the police and trying to find out how we remove the graffiti, because we haven’t done anything like that before,” Mr Voruganti said.

The pharmacy is one of many in the UK offering COVID-19 vaccinations, and has been doing so since late March.

Mr Voruganti said that the store had “punched above our weight” in providing vaccination services in relation to its size, and that most customers had been very receptive when he and his wife offered the jab.

While he had been “really gutted” about the graffiti, he had also been surprised by how swiftly locals moved to support the pharmacy.

As well as sending letters, cards and flowers, members of the community dived in to remove the offending slogans before a local window cleaner, who had volunteered for the job, could get to them.

“The outpouring of support has completely offset [the incident],” Mr Voruganti said.

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