World news wrapup: 4 June 2020

world map made of pills

Pharmacists looted in US violence; Glasgow tea trolley helps in social distancing; NZ pharmacists call for mental health role

United States: Fox News has reported on the “nightmare for a pharmacist” posed by the current unrest following the death in custody of George Floyd.

Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been arrested on third-degree murder charges after he kneeled on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes, killing him. Protests have erupted around the country protesting Mr Floyd’s death and those of several more black Americans by police and other citizens.

Fox’s Kayla Rivas writes that during looting taking place alongside these protests, some people have been targeting pharmacies.

A Washington DC CVS was raided, with looters smashing a display window and stealing a significant amount of prescription medicine, leaving bottles “strewn across the sidewalk,” she writes, in a roundup of news stories centring on pharmacy looting.

In another incident, Minneapolis pharmacy owner Elias Usso spoke to media saying he was worried that his patients would have their supply of medicines interrupted, saying that “That’s a nightmare for a pharmacist”.


Glasgow, Scotland: In a feel-good news story about the way in which one pharmacy is managing the COVID-19 challenge, the BBC has reported on a novel use for a tea trolley.

“From the high-tech to the much more homespun solutions, people across Scotland are considering how they will get used to the new ways we will have to interact with each other when we begin to get out and about,” writes reporter Gillian Sharpe.

The tray, which started life as a wedding present, is being used in a Glasgow pharmacy as “a creative way to pass over prescriptions or the contactless payment machine,” and is pushed towards the patient, or pulled back to the dispensary using a rope.

“Everybody was coming right up to the counter,” said pharmacist Elizabeth Roddick, saying the tray helps maintain social distancing while it “brings a smile to everybody’s face”.


United States: Pharmacies including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Giant Eagle and those operated by Walmart have been accused of helping to fuel the US opioids crisis, the New York Times reports.

A new court filing has alleged that these pharmacies were complicit in the problem, selling millions of doses of opioid medications in very small communities, and offering bonuses for pharmacists who had high sales volumes.

The new complaint alleges that CVS worked with Purdue Pharma to offer promotional events to pharmacists “so they could reassure patients and doctors” about the safety of OxyContin; and that in Painesville, Ohio – a town with a population of 19,524 – Rite Aid sold more than 4.2 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone between 2006 and 2014.

While most of the chains contacted by the New York Times did not respond with a comment, CVS sent a statement which said that, “Opioids are made and marketed by drug manufacturers, not pharmacists. Pharmacists dispense opioid prescriptions written by a licensed physician for a legitimate medical need”.


New Zealand: The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand says community pharmacists are in an “ideal position” to help improve physical health outcomes for mental health patients.

The recent story in Stuff of the death of Auckland man, Darryl Murray, from sepsis as a result of mega-colon, or abnormal dilation of the colon, has prompted calls for District Health Boards to issue stronger warnings about the side effects of taking clozapine.

“It is now internationally recognised that serious mental illness reduces life expectancy by up to 25 years, and that many of these deaths are from physical health problems which could have been prevented,” according to President of the Pharmaceutical Society, Ian McMichael.

“Māori and Pacific populations are particularly at risk, with Māori men the largest group prescribed clozapine,” he said.

“There are approximately 5,000 clozapine patients in New Zealand. Pharmacists see these people regularly when they come to collect their medication. Pharmacists are in an ideal position to provide these patients with extra support for both their physical and mental health,” Mr McMichael said.

The Pharmaceutical Society is calling for District Health Boards to enable pharmacists to provide a “wrap around” service in the community for these patients.

Many of the serious mental health patients in the community seldom see their family doctor as prescriptions are provided by hospital specialists.

“When patients come into a pharmacy to pick up their medication, pharmacists could consult with them on seven clinical factors; medication use, smoking cessation, bowel habits, diet, exercise, alcohol usage and general mood,” Mr McMichael said.

“With improving mental health and wellbeing in the community a key focus for this government, the pharmacy profession is endeavouring to work with all government agencies to ensure this vulnerable population are better cared for.”

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