World news wrapup: 6 September 2018

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The USA considers real-time opioid monitoring; Lloydspharmacy employees demanded to pay bonuses back; Indian pharmacist attacked after patient death

Washington, USA: New legislation that would create a nationwide alert system for pharmacists regarding opioid use has been introduced by Congressman Tom MacArthur (New Jersey), alongside Ann Kuster (New Hampshire) and Barbara Comstock (Virginia).

The ALERT Act would give America’s pharmacists a new tool to protect patients from overuse of opioids by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a Prescription Safety Alert System, with the help of the private sector.

Such an alert system would analyse the transaction data that pharmacists and payers such as insurance companies or government programs, like Medicare, already generate whenever prescriptions are filled. 

This data analysis would provide real-time feedback to pharmacists, directly into their normal workflow at the point of sale. 

“We absolutely have to get smarter about how we use technology and data analysis to fight this crisis,” Congressman MacArthur said. 

“By giving pharmacists, insurance companies, and programs like Medicare a new tool to understand the data they already have, we can help prevent further harm. 

“A pharmacist will receive an alert that someone might be at risk of overuse based on their prescription history, or might be doctor-shopping to feed their addiction. 

“Instead of filling that unnecessary prescription, pharmacists will have an extra tool to detect and prevent these dangers. 

“People struggling with substance abuse need our care and diligence while they seek treatment. This crisis does not discriminate. It affects all of us, and it will take all of us working together to beat it.  We need to give ourselves every tool we can.”


UK: Some Lloydspharmacy pharmacists and pharmacy managers have been receiving “demanding” phone calls ordering them to pay back part of their bonuses, reports Chemist + Druggist.

Lloydspharmacy’s parent company, Celesio UK, told C+D that some of the employees who had been awarded bonuses were overpaid due to a calculation error which saw all of them awarded the full bonus allowance, rather than a sum based on their performance.

Lloydspharmacy is now trying to recover the overpaid funds.

“We paid a bonus to all colleagues this year in recognition of their continued hard work and their commitment to our customers and communities,” the group told the UK pharmacy magazine, saying it was “extremely sorry” that the mistake had been made.

“Regional teams have been talking to those affected and explaining that we want to recover the part of the bonus that was overpaid in a reasonable timeframe, over several months.

“Our impacted colleagues will receive a letter this week giving details of the overpayment and where to direct any questions.”

One Lloydspharmacy manager, however, told the publication that they and affected colleagues had been receiving demanding phone calls from their area managers.

“The company is now enforcing a lump sum payment be made back… or it is automatically taken out of their wages for the next seven months,” the manager said.

“We don’t get massive bonuses, but the bonuses we do get, get spent pretty quickly,”


Bihar, India: A man who had been injured in an accident died at a community health centre in Bihar’s Sheikhpura district – so a crowd beat up the centre’s pharmacist.

Indian news outlets including the Business-Standard report that the health centre’s doctor was absent from duty at the time.

The patient was not able to access a doctor and subsequently died on route to hospital, after which a mob locked the health centre and attacked the pharmacist.

Law enforcement attended the scene and were able to control the situation, but the health centre was not able to offer services for around five hours.

The pharmacist was admitted to the same hospital where the injured patient had been sent.


New York, New York: Recent legislation prohibiting pharmacies from selling tobacco products has “substantially” reduced the overall density of tobacco outlets in the city, new data shows – but this reduction varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

The study, conducted by Columbia Mailman School of Public Health researchers and published in Tobacco Control, found that the average retailer density dropped by nearly 7%, with some neighbourhoods to experience reductions greater than 15% by the time the policy takes full effect in 2019.

Those neighbourhoods experiencing the greatest benefit from the tobacco-free pharmacy policy generally had higher income levels, greater educational attainment, and a higher proportion of non-Hispanic white residents – demographic groups who are less likely to smoke tobacco.

Areas with a higher concentration of adults with less than a high school education and a higher proportion of uninsured residents benefitted less from the policy.

For example, neighborhoods in the South Bronx, East and Central Harlem, and North and Central Brooklyn—all identified as “high risk” for tobacco retail by the American Cancer Society—experienced little to no change in retailer density after policy implementation.
“Banning tobacco sales in pharmacies—retailers that often claim to be centers of health and wellness—has received deserved praise, and is a sensible public health strategy to curb tobacco use,” said Daniel P. Giovenco, PhD, assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences.

“It is important, however, to continue to monitor the reductions in retailer density and tobacco use prevalence across neighborhoods in the years following the city’s new policies to assess their effectiveness and equitable distribution.”

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