World news wrapup: 6 March 2019

The historic Sweny’s pharmacy in Dublin, Ireland. Image courtesy Sweny’s via Facebook.
The historic Sweny’s pharmacy in Dublin, Ireland. Image courtesy Sweny’s via Facebook.

New Zealand cough medicine reclassification gaffe; historic Dublin pharmacy asks for help; GP-pharmacist turf war heats up in Malaysia

New Zealand: Pharmacies were not told that certain cough medicines had been rescheduled to either prescription only or pharmacist only until after the new law came into effect, the New Zealand Herald reports – almost leading to an awkward situation for one pharmacy.

On the day the country’s Health Minister, David Clark, visited a recently rebuilt pharmacy in Hamilton, the store was still selling the medicines in line with previous regulations.

Pharmacist Justin Deng said that the shop was only made aware that cough medicines had been reclassified two days after the change, and that via an email from the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand.

This necessitated quick removal of the products from the pharmacy’s public area.

“The email [from Pharmacy Guild] said it was effective immediately,” Mr Deng said.

“We had to shuffle the shelves quite fast. I guess there was some discussion we weren’t made aware of.”

Fortunately the Minister arrived after the medicines had been moved.

Medicines containing opium tincture and squilloxymel are now prescription-only across the Tasman, while those containing dextromethorphan and modified-release paracetamol are now pharmacist only and sales must be recorded.


Dublin, Ireland: The Dublin pharmacy made famous by James Joyce in Ulysses has turned to fundraising via a Patreon account in order to keep its doors open after a recent rent hike.

The store’s rent was doubled in July 18, an increase of about €1,500 (AUD$2,403) a month, which the volunteers who run it cannot afford.

Sweny’s, where Leopold Bloom bought lemon-scented soap in the Joyce novel, still sells the soap, though it no longer operates as a pharmacy, having ceased trading in this capacity in 2009.

Having been “preserved through neglect,” the store has remained very similar to how it appeared in Joyce’s day, with historic medicines and packaging on display. Instead of a pharmacy, however, it operates as a not-for-profit venue for reading groups and visitors interested in exploring Joyce’s work. It is staffed entirely by volunteers.

“Some of you might already know this, but last year our rent has been increased by a whopping €1,500 per month,” Sweny’s wrote on Facebook.

“The good news is that more and more people are waking up to the reality that it is in our hands to decide the future of Dublin. Do we silently watch the expansion of a Celtic-themed Dubneyland, or do we stand up today to defend the heart and soul of authentic Dublin?”


Livingston County, Michigan: Glenn Chin and Barry Cadden, the two pharmacists who are currently serving sentences for fraud, conspiracy and racketeering over the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, are now facing new murder charges.

WILX reports that the two men will be tried on 11 fresh counts of second-degree murder in Michigan, in relation to the outbreak.

Glenn Chin, who was the supervisor of a pharmacy in Framingham, Massachusetts when it sent out tainted medicines, was previously found not guilty of 25 counts of second-degree murder.

Barry Cadden was also found not guilty of 25 counts of second-degree murder. They were sentenced to eight and nine years in prison respectively, which sentences they are now serving in Livingstone County.

The New England Compounding Center sent tainted injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate out to patients across the United States.

Up to 100 people are now believed to have died as a result of the outbreak and more than 700 became ill.

The two face life in prison if they are convicted on the new charges.


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Doctors have rejected the concept of pharmacist vaccination following the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society’s proposal that pharmacists help relieve pressure on government health facilities by providing the service.

MPS president Amrahi Buang recently called for Malaysia’s National Immunisation Program to include pharmacists, citing accessibility as well as pressure on doctors and saying such a move would increase vaccine coverage.

But Malaysian Medical Association Dr Mohamed Namazie Ibrahim said such a service would be “counter-productive” and that public and private facilities are not under the kind of pressure which would warrant help from pharmacists.

“Similarly we have more than enough doctors, nurses and medical assistants who are already trained and experienced in the screening of patients and the administration of vaccines,” Dr Namazie told the Malay Mail.

“It would be counter-productive to take pharmacists away from the important functions they carry out to spend time learning how to administer intramuscular injections in such a way as to avoid damage to nerves and blood vessels while also avoiding infections and other complications.”


Japan: Japan’s health ministry is planning to submit a revision to legislation around pharmacist consultation which currently requires these to take place in person.

According to the Japan Times, the revised law will let pharmacists consult with patients online from April 2020, in a manner similar to that already employed by doctors.

The updated legislation would also permit medication delivery, though only a “limited” group of people would be able to access this at first, the Times says.

People in certain remote or low-population parts of Aichi, Hyogo and Fukuoka prefectures have already been able to access an initial program which allowed them to consult with pharmacists online.

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