World news wrapup: 29 October 2020


Arizona’s search for compounding pharmacist to prepare execution drugs over; regulatory body to check out rapid Boots COVID-19 tests; Walmart to sue over opioid crisis

Arizona, US: Arizona has found a new compounding pharmacist to prepare execution drugs, reports the AZ Mirror.

Arizona has not executed a Death Row inmate in six years, since the execution of Joseph Wood, who killed his former girlfriend and her father. Mr Wood reportedly took two hours to die in what his attorney called a “botched execution”.

The state has had difficulty since in obtaining the lethal injection drug pentobarbital.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich has told Governor Doug Ducey that he has secured a supplier as well as a pharmacist who is willing to prepare the drug, urging the Governor to ask the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to obtain it from the supplier.

There are currently 20 inmates on Death Row in the state, who have exhausted their appeals.

“Many of those inmates committed heinous murders decades ago. We must ensure that justice is served for the victims, their families and our communities,” Mr Brnovich said. 

Dale Baich, who had defended Mr Wood, noted that there may yet be barriers to restarting executions in Arizona, such as ensuring that the compounding pharmacist is licensed in the state to make the drugs.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit of time before these issues play out,” Mr Baich said.

The compounding pharmacist and the supplier have not been named.


UK: Boots is reportedly getting ready to offer a COVID-19 testing service for £120 (AUD$220), which it says has a turnaround of only 12 minutes.

The Guardian reports that the chain is using LumiraDx devices to offer same-day results, and will not be a pre-flight service, instead supplementing an existing 48-hour testing service which does have this eligibility.

According to the Pharmaceutical Journal, the General Pharmaceutical Council plans to “follow up” the announcement.

It notes that government guidance says community pharmacies should not be offering such a service.

Boots has said that the service would only be offered to asymptomatic patients, and only in “selected stores”.


Texas, US: Walmart has filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency, asking a federal court to clarify the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies under the Controlled Substances Act.

In a press release, the retail giant said that it, and its pharmacists, are committed to helping address America’s opioid crisis.

“We are proud of our pharmacists, who help patients understand the risks about opioid prescriptions, and who have refused to fill hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions they thought could be problematic,” Walmart said.

“With the help of a team of investigators and experts, Walmart has also blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled by any of our pharmacists, and we frequently assist law enforcement in bringing bad doctors to justice.

“Unfortunately, certain DOJ officials have long seemed more focused on chasing headlines than fixing the crisis.

“They are now threatening a completely unjustified lawsuit against Walmart, claiming in hindsight pharmacists should have refused to fill otherwise valid opioid prescriptions that were written by the very doctors that the federal government still approves to write prescriptions.

“We are bringing this lawsuit because there is no federal law requiring pharmacists to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship to the degree DOJ is demanding, and in fact expert federal and state health agencies routinely say it is not allowed and potentially harmful to patients with legitimate medical needs.

“Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between demands from DEA on one side and health agencies and regulators on the other, and patients are caught in the middle,” it said.

“We need a court to clarify the roles and legal responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in filling opioid prescriptions.”

The suit has been filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.


Salem, Oregon: The East Valley Tribune has reported on pharmacist Andrea Miller, who has been looking after animals displaced during a forest fire which burned through the rural area of Santiam Canyon, east of Salem.

Ms Miller, who works with OptumCare, had been visiting to look after her father, who is unwell, over the Labor Day weekend.

As fires raged through the area, Ms Miller went to the Salem Firegrounds, where she began helping people who had “truckloads of animals”.

“I staged at the fairgrounds to direct people who had truckloads of animals,’’ Ms Miller said. “It was kind of organizing the animals, checking in the animals and inventorying them.”

She began to walk and feed horses, clean up after them, look after dogs, cats and goats, and, according to the Tribune, even escort a herd of alpacas to a different location.

“I got a lot of experience taking care of horses. Shoveling poop is not at the top of my list. I always wanted a horse growing up,” Ms Miller said. “I was trying to support the owners and take that responsibility off their plate.”

On return home, she helped make it possible for other OptumCare employees to donate to a relief fund.

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