World news wrapup: 8 April 2021


Pharmacist sentenced over hydroxychloroquine importation; high street downturn blamed for UK store closures; rural pharmacies report vaccine no-shows

Draper, Utah: A pharmacist has avoided a custodial sentence after he illegally imported hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine from a vendor which was not registered with US drug regulators, reports the Salt Lake Tribune.

When hydroxychloroquine began to emerge as a possible treatment for COVID-19 in March 2020 – but before interest spiked due to its promotion by then US President Donald Trump and others – Dan Richards began to discuss with state officials that it could have a significant role to play.

Mr Richards, the CEO of Meds in Motion, put together a multi-million dollar deal that month which saw him secure a large amount of the drug from a Chinese supplier.

He imported the medicine in shipments which bore a false label, “Boswellia serrata extract,” with the aim of distributing the “FDA-quality” hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine through official channels.

In January 2021, he pleaded guilty on charges relating to the importation.

He was sentenced to three years’ probation, fined US$10,000 (AUD$13,063) and told to pay the cost of destroying the medication, at a cost of up to US$30,000 (AUD$39,190).

Prosecutors stressed that Mr Richards had acted with good intent.

Prosecutor Ruth Hackford-Peer said that, “There’s no doubt he’s made some terrible decisions, and criminal ones at that”.

“But it does appear that he had a good heart in doing so and thought he would be helping the people of the state of Utah.”

 

UK: The Semichem chain is set to lose up to 22 stores in Scotland, Northern Ireland and England’s north-east, the Herald Scotland reports.

According to the co-operative society Scotmid, which owns Semichem as well as convenience stores and a funeral care provider, the pandemic only worsened existing “challenges to high street trading” for the group.

Up to 140 jobs are likely to be at risk.

The group’s head, Karen Scott, told the Herald that, “The high street was already struggling to adapt to the pace of change in shopping habits, including out-of-town developments and the rise of internet shopping.

“That change has undoubtedly been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, we have reached the point where it is no longer viable to keep some of our stores open.”

The co-operative says it is currently consulting with affected staff – some of whom it hopes to redeploy – as well as with the landlords of premises it wants to close.

 

St. Louis, Missouri: Pharmacists across rural Missouri are reporting significant numbers of patients failing to return for their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

According to KMOV.com, these rural pharmacies were at first a “hot destination” to be vaccinated, but people are less willing to drive long distances for the second jab.

“There are a lot of second doses in rural pharmacies,” Michaela Newell from the Missouri Pharmacy Association told KMOV.

“Those pharmacies are having a lot of problems giving their second doses because it was someone driving from St. Louis to Cape Girardeau and now they’re not going to do that anymore.”

Missouri is recommending people get both doses of vaccine at the one pharmacy.

However as access to the vaccine improves, many are now unwilling to drive long distances to do so.

Instead, many are making the appointment for their second jab, then not turning up, or calling to cancel. This means pharmacists need to act quickly to ensure these doses are not wasted.

“There are a lot of pharmacists who are working well into the evening, spending time away from their families, to make sure every dose is accounted for and nothing is wasted,” said Ms Newell.

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