World news wrapup: 2 May 2018

“Purple drank” robber foiled; pharmacy in North Korea; alleged price-fixing in New Zealand

Wauna, Washington State: It was stacks on for a would-be thief in Washington State over the weekend, as he was tackled by a pharmacist and a number of customers “dog piled” onto him, the News Tribune and Gig Harbor Patch report.

The man allegedly went to the Cost Less Pharmacy wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves, and went behind the counter where he started taking items.

He tried to run when the 75-year-old pharmacist approached him – and the pharmacist grabbed him and with the help of the customers, dragged him back inside and held him down behind the counter until law enforcement arrived.

The 21-year-old would-be thief told police that he resells the codeine-containing cough syrup at parties for $100 a bottle as an ingredient in “purple drank” – cough syrup on ice with soda and occasionally Jolly Rancher lollies.

He is now facing a first-degree robbery charge.


Wexford, Ireland: The Irish Pharmacy Union is reporting a 40% increase in the amount of counterfeit or illegal medications seized in Ireland, RTE News reports.

It says nearly a million medical doses of these medicines – half being steroids – were seized in 2017.

Executive Committee member Catriona O’Riordan reportedly told the Union’s annual conference in Wexford that many of these illegal or counterfeit drugs are sourced via the Internet, hence the rise in numbers.

“Quite often they have been found to be worthless placebos, meaning genuine health complaints and illnesses go untreated,” she said.

She told the conference that there is “no way for anyone to know what is in these supposed medications”.


Nelson, New Zealand: New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has filed civil proceedings in the country’s High Court against Nelson’s Prices Pharmacy, and its director Jason Wright and former director Stuart Hebberd, according to

According to the Commission, the two men colluded with other pharmacies in the area on a price-fixing agreement, which led to customers paying a dispensing charge of NZ$6 (AUD$5.60) instead of NZ$5 (AUD$4.66) for fully-funded prescription medicines.

The Commission alleges that the scheme began following a meeting of pharmacy owners in the region in April 2016, where 10 pharmacy owners agreed to participate. It stopped in June 2016 after the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board provided additional funding to pharmacy owners, the Commission says.

The other pharmacy owners were issued warning letters.


South Korea: A woman who was the first to obtain licenses to practice as a pharmacist in both North and South Korea has shared her experiences with The Investor.

Lee Hye-kyung told the paper that while living in North Korea, to make ends meet she worked as a pharmacist by day, hunted for medicinal plants in the afternoons and made noodles to sell to market sellers in the evenings.

 “South Koreans think a pharmacist is a high-paying job but in the North, I earned less than miners,” she said.

“In the South, the only obligation that a pharmacist has is to sell medication, but in the North you have to do everything from scratch, including hunting down medicinal plants.

“This is because we were always so short on bottom line products. Back in the North, I worked at a hospital as a pharmacist in the morning, then would go plant-hunting in the afternoon. We even had to produce the paper to be used for writing down prescriptions.

“Another thing I remember is how the sector was undergoing retrogression from modern medicine because North Korean authorities at the time ordered western medicines to be replaced with traditional herbal medicines.

“This was actually due to the lack of interaction with Eastern European communist countries that led to medicine shortages.”

She said, however, that one positive aspect of life in North Korea is that hospital access is equally good around the country, while in South Korea they are clustered in Seoul.

When she came to South Korea, she needed to start from scratch again, this time to obtain qualifications to practice there.

“Since you expect a better life in the South, it was hard to give up what I had done in the North. I had worked for 12 years as a pharmacist in North Korea, but all that was worth nothing here.”

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