World news wrapup: 5 November 2020


Viral video by pharmacy workers offends; Kiwi pharmacies shut out of COVID help funds; Italians spark run on supplement

County Armagh, Northern Ireland: The Gordons Chemist chain has apologised after two of its staff appeared in an offensive TikTok video which went viral, reports the Belfast Telegraph.

The video, which featured two employees wearing Gordons Chemists uniforms, appeared to be mocking people with autism.

After the video was widely disseminated, sparking a backlash against the chain by people angry with the video’s content, Gordons investigated the incident.

It has been reported that the two employees are from a Co Armagh shop.

“We were made aware yesterday of a TikTok video, posted to a Gordons employee’s personal account, which appeared to show two members of our staff in the video,” said a spokesperson for the chain.

“We appreciated that the content of the video has caused upset to many individuals.

“We would like to make it clear that the actions of these staff members and the content of their video does not represent Gordons Chemists or the values we hold dear and we would like to apologise to anyone who has been offended by it.

“Gordons Chemist was not aware of the making of the video.

“As this is now an ongoing HR matter we will not be making any further comment.”

 

New Zealand: Radio New Zealand reports that none of the NZ$18 million (AUD$16,840,620) in pandemic recovery funding earmarked for community pharmacies earlier this year has been distributed.

Journalist Emma Hatton spoke to Steve Jo, the owner of Unichem Southcity in Invercargill, who said that the eligibility criteria were too tough.

“We had to demonstrate: ‘critical financial viability’, ‘seriously threatened’, those kind of terms,” Mr Jo said.

“And they wanted to have a look at all our books and everything. I feel that basically, if we are about to shut the door, then we might be able to claim it but otherwise don’t even think about it.

“I personally felt a little bit betrayed about it, because the government was saying that we’re doing a good thing and we want to look after community pharmacists who work really hard at the frontline worker, but here’s $18 million that you can’t really touch.”

Only pharmacies who are classed as “essential” could apply, which means some store owners feel that they could never access the funds on these grounds.

“For me, was I ever going to be essential with a big player 10 kilometres down the road who was open long hours?” said Kathy Maxwell, the owner of the Unichem Hillpark Pharmacy in Auckland.

“Probably not. So I was never going to be able to get the funding.

“Yet I worked, and my staff worked, the hardest we had ever worked.”

 

Italy: Pharmacists in Italy are having to deal with a spike in demand for lactoferrin, as Italians seek protection against COVID-19.

Yahoo reports that after the supplement showed some positive results in a small clinical trial based in Rome – though the authors noted that more research was needed – demand surged.

Elena Campione, a dermatology professor from Rome’s Tor Vergata university, reported that after treating people who had tested positive to COVID-19 early in the stage of the illness, symptoms vanished and the patients tested negative.

Yahoo says the report then went viral.

“We don’t know anything about this product – we’re blind too,” a pharmacist told AFP, declining to be identified.

“When people are scared, they will believe anything.”

Staff at the Igea San Gallicano pharmacy in central Rome said they were selling up to 100 boxes of lactoferrin each week – up from two or three a month under normal circumstances.

 

Syracuse, New York: Jennifer Caloia, a pharmacist who owned and operated the Dougherty Pharmacy in Morrisville, New York, from 1998 to 2015, has pleaded guilty in federal court in Utica to one felony count of health care fraud.

Officials say that in pleading guilty, Ms Caloia admitted that between 2011 and 2015, she defrauded public and private health insurance programs by submitting false and fraudulent claims for prescription drugs that the pharmacy did not dispense.

Ms Caloia also admitted that customers submitting prescriptions for medications had their health insurance providers billed for more expensive drugs than those prescribed.

To facilitate this scheme, the defendant changed the names of some of the prescription drugs in the software she used to communicate with insurance companies and to print drug labels, which allowed her to submit her fraudulent claims while providing the customer with the appropriate labels and instructions.

Ms Caloia further admitted that she personally obtained $110,431.02 (AUD$156,267) in unrecovered proceeds in connection with her health care fraud scheme. She no longer owns or operates Dougherty Pharmacy.

Sentencing is scheduled for February 24, 2021 in federal court in Utica, at which time Ms Caloia faces up to 10 years in prison; a fine of up to $250,000; and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

In her plea agreement, Ms Caloia has agreed to pay restitution in the amount of US$110,431.02 to the public and private insurers affected by her fraud scheme.

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