World news wrapup: 4 May 2017

Surprise audits in New Zealand; pharmacist prescribing push in the UK; pharmacy assistant jailed for supplying drugs in England; opioid abuse campaign in Utah

Auckland, New Zealand: Pharmacists in Auckland may be subjected to unannounced audits, reports NZ Doctor.

The NZ Ministry of Health says that the surprise audits, which are due to begin this month, are intended to lift quality and reduce the compliance burden associated with extensive planned audits.

They will be part of a pilot program to take place in Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau areas. Surprise audits are expected to take place at 90 pharmacies this month and in June.

According to Medicines Control manager Michael Haynes, inspection audits conducted in 2016 showed that on a day-to-day basis pharmacies have not been maintaining expected compliance levels that had been observed at a quality audit.


Carlisle, England: A pharmacy assistant has been jailed for four and a half years after posting drugs to an addict who then died, BBC News reports.

Claire Madge posted drugs to Shaun Bowmer in Penrith, Cumbria, who she had met in an online chat room as long as 10 years ago.

The Court heard that she had taken the drugs, including tramadol, morphine-based Zomorph and Sevredol, and diazepam and lorazepam, from her workplace after they had been returned for disposal by patients.

Ms Madge admitted to sending Mr Bowmer tramadol, but denied sending him the other drugs.

Mr Bowmer died in February 2016, and significant levels of tramadol and morphine were discovered in his body.

Judge Peter Davies told Ms Madge that “it is not an exaggeration to say but for you, he may be alive today”.


Salt Lake City, Utah: Pharmacists in Utah have created a new initiative, “Talk to Your Pharmacist Month”, aimed at combating opioid abuse in the state.

The project, which was announced by the Utah Department of Health, Utah Pharmacy Association and Utah Department of Commerce will run throughout May.

Potentially harmful medicines will have a red warning sticker attached, to remind patients that these medicines carry some risk. It’s intended that this will help give patients a reason to start a conversation with patients who purchase these drugs.

Greg Jones, director of pharmacy for Harmons Grocery and chairman of the Utah Pharmacy Licensing Board, told the Deseret News that “people underestimate the danger of their medications”.

“People think they’ll be fine taking it, and quite often they’re not.

“Given the high number of deaths associated with prescription opioids, understanding the risks of opioids is vital to patient safety.”

According to Utah’s Controlled Substance Database, prescription drug overdose causes around 24 deaths a month in the state.


UK: Britain’s All-Party Pharmacy Group has recommended pharmacists have the opportunity to become prescribers, in addition to the introduction of a minor ailment service across England.

The group, comprising MPs across various parties with an interest in pharmacy, made the recommendations in a report following an enquiry into the effect of government reforms, the Pharmaceutical Journal reports.

The APPG says the recommendations would “strengthen the sector’s ability to serve patients and mitigate some of the negative impacts of the reforms” following a significant loss of confidence in the sector.

“The health service is facing huge challenges due to patient demand, and by working to develop services, community pharmacy can shoulder some of the burden facing GPs, and other parts of the NHS,” says group vice chair Oliver Colvile MP.

Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, said the opportunity to become prescribers is “absolutely essential” though there was confusion about the practice which needed to be cleared up.

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