World news wrapup: 5 August 2021

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Pharmacy tech stole half a million dollars’ worth of stock, sold it and gambled proceeds; GP surgery warns against pharmacy jab; NZ agency move for transparency

Bedworth, Warwickshire: A pharmacy technician was losing up to £44,000 (AUD$82,585) in a single day on a gambling habit fed by stealing from his workplace, the Coventry Telegraph reports.

Andrew Simpson reportedly stole £278,951 (AUD$523,572) worth of stock from the Well Pharmacy in Bedworth, by over-ordering and then selling the excess goods.

These included items from cosmetics through to medicines and diabetic testing strips.

Mr Simpson had unlimited access to the stock room at the pharmacy, where he had worked for seven years.

When financial discrepancies were uncovered, a CCTV camera was placed in the stock room.

Footage from the system later showed Mr Simpson raiding the stock room, putting items in a box which he took away, several times.

Police were informed and when they arrested Mr Simpson, they found 726 stolen items, with a cost price of £8,426 (AUD$15,815) in his car and at his house.

Mr Simpson fronted Warwick Crown Court in July for a confiscation hearing following an investigation into his finances, after he was handed a 22-month jail sentence for the thefts in 2020.

While he asked for a longer sentence in order to avoid selling his home to pay compensation to his former employer, this was denied, given he had already been handed the maximum initial custodial sentence.

It was determined that he had assets worth £58,530.45 (AUD$94,841) which were to be confiscated and paid as compensation.


Hampshire, England: A spokesperson for a Hampshire GP surgery has admitted that a communication sent to its patients about pharmacy vaccination was, “Not worded as well as it might have been”.

Chemist+Druggist reports that the surgery displayed a poster, and sent an email to patients, in which it asked them to support the practice by having their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations there.

“If our patients go elsewhere for their vaccination, our stock will go to waste and it may affect us being able to offer a comprehensive service in future,” this communication said.

“We are not working with any pharmacies or hubs to provide this service as we are commissioned to and able to vaccinate all our eligible patients.”

According to Chemist+Druggist, nearby pharmacies had patients cancel pre-booked appointments to be vaccinated against flu, as a result of the communication from the GP surgery.

One local pharmacy technician said that some patients had been concerned about being led to fear using their pharmacy for vaccination services.

Later, a spokesperson for the GP surgery told the pharmacy industry publication that the surgery’s objective had been to ensure everybody who could receive a COVID-19 vaccine, received one.

“We completely respect the right of patients to exercise choice, but it is also important for patients to be aware that if they do not book their flu jabs with us, there will be vaccine wastage. [This] may affect the number of vaccines we can purchase in future – potentially compromising the comprehensive coverage that we are currently proud to offer,” she told C+D.

“We are not booking flu vaccinations yet, so none have booked with us to date.”


New Zealand: Pharmac, the Government agency which makes decisions on medicines and medical product funding in New Zealand, has announced that for the first time, it is sharing its priority lists for all funding applications for medicines it has assessed but not yet funded.

Pharmac’s Chief Executive Sarah Fitt said that, “Until now, we have not shared what applications were on which list, as we thought it could make it harder for us to negotiate with suppliers for the best deals”.

“But we know people are interested in what applications we are actively considering and we want to be more transparent.

“As a government entity, it’s important that we are as open as we can be. This includes letting people know where funding applications are at in the Pharmac process.”

The medicines will appear on three lists: the options for investment list, which includes all the applications that would be funded if Pharmac had the budget for them; the only if cost neutral or cost saving list, which includes applications that may be funded if Pharmac can negotiate a deal that saves money, or at least doesn’t cost more; and the recommended for decline list.

“By making our lists easily available, we hope that New Zealanders will have more clarity about where applications are at that we have completed our assessment of but are not yet funded,” Ms Fitt said.


Ireland: The Irish Pharmacy Union has reiterated its call for women to be allowed access to contraception directly from pharmacies, without prescription and free of charge.

“As of this week, two specific progesterone-based oral contraceptives are available over the counter in UK pharmacies without prescription. Women in Ireland should also be allowed similarly convenient access to oral contraceptives through their pharmacist,” said Kathy Maher, a community pharmacist and past-President of the IPU.

“The 2020 Programme for Government commits to the establishment of free contraceptive care, starting with women and girls aged between 17 and 25. Prior to this, the former Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD established a working group in 2019 to consider the policy, regulatory and legislative issues relating to enhanced access to contraception, following the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment.

“While stating that contraceptive usage is generally high and stable, the working group cited lack of local access, cost, inconvenience, lack of knowledge, and embarrassment among younger women, as the main obstacles to accessing contraception in Ireland, among other factors. We look forward to the work of the Contraception Implementation Group being progressed as rapidly as possible.

“Improving access to regular birth control means that more women will avail of it and this in turn will reduce the incidence of unintended or crisis pregnancy. These acknowledged issues that the UK scheme has sought to address are also a concern in Ireland.”

In its 2019 submission to the Department of Health on the subject, the IPU pointed to HSE research that almost half of women in Ireland would prefer to access contraception through their pharmacy.

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