World news wrapup: 5 May 2016

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This week’s pharmacy news from around the world

UK: The Guardian reports that a letter from an “independent pharmacist,” taking issue with its recent investigations into Boots pressuring pharmacists into performing Medicines Use Reviews, has been edited by senior employees of the pharmacy giant.

“Boots stands accused of ‘trying to deceive the public,’ after a letter sent to the Guardian purporting to be from an independent pharmacist was found to have been processed and extensively revised by the retailer’s senior executives,” writes reporter Aditya Chakrabortty, who broke the MURs story.

The letter claimed to be from a third-generation independent pharmacist who expressed concerns about how Boots was portrayed in the article, “and the damage it was doing to a profession I love and am proud to be part of”.

But on opening, the letter appeared to contain edits, amendments and corrections left in through the Track Changes function. These changes were made by a vice-president at Walgreens Boots Alliance, which owns Boots.

The Guardian contacted the writer, who said the changes did not include the content or “ethos”.

“Editing the letter was ‘a common courtesy,’ which included ‘some small grammatical changes,’ the executive told The Guardian.

“ However, when asked how often a vice-president at the £60bn multinational edited letters from members of the public, she admitted: ‘Never,’” Chakrabortty wrote.


New Zealand: The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand has teamed up with Grey Power New Zealand, signing a Memorandum of Understanding to help the two work closely together.

“Guild and Grey Power representatives met for the first time last year to discuss mutual issues including inequalities between elderly in rest homes and those in their own homes, inequalities due to ‘postcode health’, and issues with community pharmacy deregulation,” says Guild president Ken Orr.

“Since then representatives from both organisations met again in March to discuss the difficulties older people experience with medicine packaging.

“Both organisations acknowledged that an ongoing relationship would be of benefit and that a MoU will allow us to work closely together in pursuit of common interests for the benefit of our members, patients, and communities.

“The MoU will encourage both organisations to keep a close watch on any potential changes that may impact the members of one or both organisations.”


Minnesota; US: Prince may have been pharmacy shopping to hide “a paper trail of multiple prescriptions,” entertainment site TMZ reports.

Last week the site reported that police executed a search warrant at the Walgreens pharmacy near Paisley Park, which the star was seen visiting four times in the week preceding his death.

According to TMZ, Prince “passed up at least eight pharmacies close to Paisley Park on his way to pick up prescription pills hours before his death… and it could all have been to hide a paper trail of multiple prescriptions”.

It says the oxycodone/paracetamol combination drug Percocet may be implicated in Prince’s death.

“Most pharmacies will throw up a red flag if a patient visits too often… so by visiting multiple locations in his area, the singer could have flown under the radar,” TMZ says.


Charleston, West Virginia: West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has announced his office has brought suit against a third pharmacy charged as part of a scheme to obtain consumer information and transfer prescriptions without the patients’ permission.

The lawsuit has been filed against Cure Pharmacy of Wyomissing, Pennsylvania. Similar allegations have been filed against two other pharmacies, both in Utah, late last year.

The lawsuits allege each company obtained personal data from multiple patients and used that information to transfer prescriptions to its pharmacy without the patients’ knowledge or consent, a move that forced the patients to pay a much higher price.

Attorney General Morrisey says additional lawsuits could follow as his investigators continue examining evidence in what could be a much broader case.

“I take these allegations seriously,” Attorney General Morrisey says. “When we believe that any company – much less a pharmacy – would take a consumer’s information and use it improperly, we will aggressively try to stop the practice.”

The lawsuits allege Cure Pharmacy and its Utah counterparts used forms, surveys and online questionnaires to obtain personal information. Each company allegedly used the data and deception to entice patients to unknowingly transfer prescriptions, after which doctors received faxed transfer forms to the defendant pharmacies.

Patients then received bulk prescriptions they had not ordered. That caused confusion and financial hardships as the defendants failed to maximise the consumers’ health benefits through insurance and state medical programs, the lawsuits allege.


Chandigarh, India: A doctor’s shortage in India has prompted the Health Department to permit pharmacists in Punjab to prescribe medicines in a move which has been met with disapproval by doctors.

Pharmacists will be able to prescribe medicines after consulting the doctor on duty via phone, The Times reports. They will also be able to dispense and suggest medicines already prescribed by patients’ doctors, and unscheduled drugs.

Dr Gagandeep Singh, president, Punjab Civil Medical Services Association, told the Times that the Government was playing with lives and should instead hire more doctors.

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