World news wrapup: 30 January 2020

view from shopping trolley: PSA story

Crime “lynchpin” used his mother’s pharmacy as a criminal enterprise; supermarket pharmacies failing; “pretend doctors” program airs positive segment

USA: The Wall Street Journal has reported on a growing phenomenon whereby supermarkets in regional areas are closing or selling pharmacies within their businesses.

“In some towns, it is getting harder to pick up your blood-pressure pills with that gallon of milk and rotisserie chicken,” write Sharon Terlep and Jaewon Kang.

According to the Journal, pharmacy counters in grocery stores have been “struggling” due to the popularity of large chains such as CVS or Walgreens, some of which provide health services including walk-in clinics, and online pharmacies.

Patients are also more likely to have 90 days’ worth of drugs supplied to them at a time, resulting in a drop in foot traffic.

The number of supermarket pharmacies declined for the first time in “years” in 2017, from 9, 344 in 2016 to 9,026. 2017 data is the latest available.

The Journal cited the case of Raley’s Supermarkets, a chain of about 120 stores based in West Sacramento, California, which closed about a third of its grocery store pharmacies last year alone. The pharmacies involved dispensed a low number of scripts and were losing money, the chain said.

“There is the benefit of having a pharmacy relative to the grocery-sale lift and the convenience factor of having both in the store, but the economics do not work,” said Keith Knopf, chief executive of Raley’s.


London, England: In a first for the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, a man has been sentenced to six years in jail after he used his mother’s East London pharmacy as a criminal enterprise.

David Ihenagwa pleaded guilty to a charge of supplying Class B drugs, as well as four charges of supplying Class C drugs, between September 2015 and April 2016.

In June 2016, the Agency’s officers seized 13,440 codeine phosphate tablets from an address in Stoke-on-Trent, later tracing the medicine back to the pharmacy where Mr Ihenagwa worked as company secretary. The MHRA learned that he had bought the tablets from a licensed wholesale dealer in Surrey and operated the criminal enterprise from his mother’s pharmacy.

An investigation showed that he regularly bought far larger quantities of controlled drugs than would normally be dispensed from a high street pharmacy.

Mr Ihenagwa was charged with supplying codeine phosphate, a class B drug and 4 charges of supplying Diazepam, Zopiclone, Lorazepam, and Tramadol, all class C drugs. All the drugs are prescription-only medicines.

Proceedings to confiscate the proceeds of Ihenagwa’s criminal activity are now underway.

“Those who sell medicines illegally are exploiting vulnerable people and have no regard for their health,” said Mark Jackson, MHRA Head of Enforcement.

According to the Daily Mail, in sentencing Mr Ihenagwa Judge Daniel Flahive told him that, “You were the lynchpin, the conduit, without whom the drugs would not have ended up in the hands of those who were not authorised to have them”.


UK: ITV’s This Morning show has highlighted the work and services performed in community pharmacies, after a previous segment on the program drew ire for containing derogatory remarks about the sector, reports Pharmacy Business.

In the earlier segment, broadcaster and journalist Sam Delaney responded to a new NHS initiative – which would see pharmacists talk to patients about weight loss and unhealthy lifestyle choices – by calling members of the profession “pretend doctors”. Mr Delaney said he would be outraged if a pharmacist approached him for such a discussion.

The UK’s communication regulator received more than 2,300 complaints about this segment, and a Twitter campaign was begun by prominent pharmacist Johnathan Laird to showcase the work pharmacists do.

Now, Birmingham high street pharmacist Amit Sahdev has been featured on This Morning discussing the benefits of visiting a pharmacy for common ailments, and services such as vaccination and weight loss clinics.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, National Pharmacy Association and other industry groups congratulated Mr Sahdev and praised the report.


Edmonton, Canada: A pharmacist has had his permit to practise the profession suspended for the second time after he created false dispensing records while acting as a pharmacy manager, CBC Canada reports.

Si Huu Nguyen has been suspended for two years and ordered to pay around CAD$38,000 (AUD$42,643) for his behaviour while acting as the manager of Edmonton’s V-Can Pharmacy in 2017.

The pharmacy has since closed.

He allegedly submitted at least CAD$170,000 (AUD$190,773) in claims to a third-party insurer – claims which were not corroborated by inventory records.

A tribunal found Mr Nguyen guilty of unprofessional conduct, and the insurer in question is reportedly seeking repayment of the funds, having already recovered most of them.

Mr Nguyen’s first suspension, in July 2019, was for one year, after a third-party insurer alleged that he had submitted more than CAD$100,000 in similarly unsupported claims.

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