World news wrapup: 8 December 2016

We take a look at pharmacy news from around the world

Antrim, Northern Ireland: An overworked pharmacist whose dispensing error led to the death of a 67-year-old woman was suffering from low mood and fatigue at the time and has since been too afraid to return to work, a court has heard.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that Ethna Walsh had gone to the Clear Pharmacy on Antrim’s Station Road to fill a script for prednisolone, which was dispensed by pharmacist Martin White. However, upon arriving home, Walsh became ill moments after taking the medicine and later died in hospital.

According to prosecution barrister Michael Chambers, White picked up a box of Propranolol instead of the COPD medication; Chambers told the Court that White told police the two boxes were “side by side on the shelf and have similar branding”.

White said he had carried out the required checks under the pharmacy Standard Operation Procedures, but also complained of the “cramped working space”, and that at the time he had seen his GP about feelings of low mood, tiredness and fatigue.

An expert told the Court that accuracy checks had not been carried out, but that White was guilty not of professional misconduct, but of poor professional performance.

Defence QC John Kearney said that since the tragedy White has been too frightened to return to work due to feelings of guilt. He has been receiving psychiatric help.

Kearney said that White was, “an ordinary man who struggled because he worked too hard… regularly working up to 60 hours a week… always on call”.


Kamo, New Zealand: Pharmacist David Postlewaight has joined the ranks of the Ghostbusters after dispensing a ghost repellent to a little girl.

Hanae Swanson was afraid of ghosts, but after a visit to David’s Pharmacy, she is now armed with a spray bottle of “1 Ghosts Away!” with instructions to spray one to two sprays in a room to make ghosts disappear (repeat as often as needed).

According to Ferne Hammon, the spray “worked an absolute treat!” and the family is back to enjoying full nights’ sleep.

Image above: Facebook


Wellington, New Zealand: A new report has confirmed the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand’s position that medicine margin funding has not been covering the true cost of the supply chain for the procurement and stockholding of medicine for community pharmacies.

The report, “True costs of the pharmaceutical supply chain,” was prepared by Grant Thornton NZ and followed a commitment made by the Canterbury and Nelson-Marlborough DHBs (District Health Boards) last December during the mediation of a dispute that arose when two pharmacies began charging additional fees to cover the full supply chain cost.

“The report estimates that in the 2014/15 year the supply chain was underfunded by between $10 million to $19 million,” Pharmacy Guild Chief Executive Andrew Gaudin says.

“This is not a fully costed estimate as it does not take into account the costs of packaging materials and handling costs for bulk packs which are a part of supply chain costs.

“In a media release DHB Shared Services suggest there is sufficient funding within professional service fees to offset the medicine margin funding shortfall.

“We do not believe that there is conclusive evidence to support this and note that the scope of the mediation outcome requirements did not extend to reviewing professional service fees.”


London, UK: A woman who mistakenly used foxglove instead of comfrey leaves to make a herbal tea was rushed to hospital in a life-threatening condition.

Writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors at King’s College Hospital say the case highlights the need to be aware of accidental ingestion of the foxglove plant in patients who use herbal remedies.

The previously well 63-year-old woman arrived at the emergency department with vomiting, palpitations, and lightheadedness. She had no history of heart problems.

A friend had recommended her the herbal drink comfrey (Symphytum officinale) to help ease her insomnia. She had purchased a handful of comfrey leaves from a local market and brewed them into a tea. Her symptoms began several hours later.

The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) database did not have an entry for comfrey. However, the entry for foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) states it may be confused with comfrey herbal tea.

A quick internet search suggested that the comfrey plant closely resembled the foxglove plant, which contains the organic forms of digoxin and digitoxin.

Raised digoxin levels confirmed this and the patient was given an antidote. After five days of monitoring, her heart returned to normal rhythm and she was discharged home.

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