World news wrapup: 6 June 2019


Canadian pharmacists call for codeine restrictions; barriers to Indian online pharmacist to be lowered; unsociable hours affect recruitment in UK

Saskatchewan, Canada: Pharmacists in Canada are calling for stronger restrictions on the sale of low-dose codeine.

Stephanie Taylor of The Canadian Press reports that a growing number of pharmacists are refusing to stock Tylenol 1, a combination of low-dose codeine, acetaminophen (paracetamol) and caffeine.

The pharmacists are concerned about the opioid epidemic gripping Canada and the United States.

Ms Taylor spoke to pharmacy manager Matthew Manz, who recently complained about a nearby pharmacy in Regina, Saskatchewan, which had purchased 1.6 million Tylenol 1 tablets between April 2017 and January 2018. The whereabouts of 1.1 million of these tablets is unknown.

Mr Manz said the pharmacy had sold three bottles of the tablets, in one month, to a patient he was treating for opioid dependency.

He told The Canadian Press that pharmacists need to be more aware of what is happening with regard to the opioid crisis.

“You’re doing a harm reduction program within the pharmacy. You’re getting people off opioids, but then at the same time you’re offering over-the-counter opioids,” he said.

“In my head, it didn’t make sense.”

The Canadian Pharmacists Association supports upscheduling low-dose codeine to Prescription Only, and is calling for a review of the use of low-dose codeine.

 

India: Health officials are soon to meet with industry stakeholders regarding the formal recognition and regulation of online pharmacies, reports LiveMint.

The newly elected Modi Government reportedly has plans to formally recognise e-pharmacies, which have been the subject of some controversy and legal uncertainty in India to date.

The suggested regulations would permit only online pharmacies with government registration to sell medicines.

“Regulating e-pharmacy companies is high on the agenda and is part of the government’s 100-day agenda. The Prime Minister who has taken massive steps to push Digital India is keen on this proposal and we hope to give teeth to the online pharmacy business within first 100 days,” an anonymous health ministry official told LiveMint.

Bricks-and-mortar pharmacies have long opposed such steps, stating concerns that easier access to medicines could promote misuse.

 

UK: According to the National Pharmacy Association and the Boots pharmacy chain, long and unsociable hours are a significant contributor to a shortage of pharmacists, reports Chemist + Druggist.

The UK pharmacy magazine reports that the two stakeholder groups responded to a government consultation about whether there was a shortage of pharmacists and, if so, whether restrictions should be loosened on employing pharmacists from outside the UK.

Boots said that it was having a difficult time recruiting pharmacists because of the level of competition and low number of applicants” and because “the job entails shift work or unsociable hours”.

Meanwhile the NPA said that “the long hours, including weekends and evenings, are making it difficult to recruit pharmacists” and that Northern Ireland was particularly affected.

 

USA: The US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning to consumers – in particular, women of child-bearing age – about vinpocetine, an ingredient often found in dietary supplements.

According to data reviewed by the FDA, including a recent report by the National Institute of Health’s National Toxicology Program, consumption of vinpocetine is associated with adverse reproductive effects: vinpocetine may cause a miscarriage or harm foetal development.

“These findings are particularly concerning since products containing vinpocetine are widely available for use by women of childbearing age,” said the FDA’s Principal Deputy Commissioner, Amy Abernathy andDeputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response – Food and Drug Administration Frank Yiannas.

“That’s why today we’re advising pregnant women and women who could become pregnant not to take vinpocetine. We are also advising firms marketing dietary supplements containing vinpocetine to evaluate their product labeling to ensure that it provides safety warnings against use by pregnant women and women who could become pregnant.

“Vinpocetine is a synthetically produced compound that is used in some products marketed as dietary supplements, either by itself or combined with other ingredients.

“Vinpocetine may be referred to on product labels as Vinca minor extract, lesser periwinkle extract, or common periwinkle extract. Dietary supplements containing vinpocetine are often marketed for uses that include enhanced memory, focus, or mental acuity; increased energy; and weight loss.

“Scientists who have studied the effects of vinpocetine on pregnant animals concluded that vinpocetine decreased fetal weight and increased the chances of a miscarriage.

“The blood levels of vinpocetine measured in the pregnant animals were similar to those reported in people after taking a single dose of vinpocetine, indicating that pregnant women may experience adverse effects from vinpocetine similar to those seen in the pregnant animals.”

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