World news wrapup: 8 February 2018

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Pharmacists are “easy targets” for crime; pharmacist accuses EC patient of lying about assault; US to crack down on high opioid dispensing pharmacies

Ireland: Pharmacists are seen as “easy targets” by criminals, RTÉ reports, amid calls for tougher sentencing.

Daragh Connolly, president of the Irish Pharmacy Union, was commenting on data from a survey recently conducted by the IPU, which showed that four in five pharmacies in Ireland had been targeted in the previous year.

Crimes included shoplifting, break-ins and raids, and 81% of victims had experienced two or more incidents since 2017.

Mr Connolly highlighted an increasing number of violent incidents and said the justice system was loaded in favour of those who perpetrate crimes, meaning there is little fear of consequences.

A fifth of violent incidents have involved the use of a weapon, “most typically a knife, but it’s not unheard of for pharmacists to have a gun put in their faces”.

IPU is urging authorities to consider stricter sentencing as well as a more visible Garda (police) presence as a deterrent.


Louisville, Kentucky: The United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency intends to crack down on opioid abuse via a nationwide investigation of pharmacies and prescribers that are dispensing or issuing “unusual or disproportionate” levels of opioid prescriptions.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions told DEA agents in Louisville that authorities “still have a lot more work to do” to reduce levels of violent crime and opioid abuse, The Hill reports.

“DEA collects some 80 million transaction reports every year from manufacturers and distributors of prescription drugs,” he said.

“These reports contain information like distribution figures and inventory. DEA will aggregate these numbers to find patterns, trends, statistical outliers—and put them into targeting packages.”

However stakeholders have written in Pharmacy Times that Mr Sessions and his colleagues are “naïve to the complex and biopsychosocial, medical, and pharmaceutical paradigms that are actually driving the opioid epidemic”.

“What [The Hill‘s] article does not tell you is what percentage of the 42,240 deaths are from illegally-obtained prescription versus nonprescription opioids,” they write.

“It avoids elucidating that legitimate, written prescriptions have rapidly declined since 2009; that although heroin use has been on the rise since 2002, it has more than doubled since 2013; that many if not most recent heroin deaths included in these stats are not from prescription drugs but are from illegally imported nonpharmaceutical grade nonprescription fentanyl derivatives; that daily morphine equivalent doses have drastically declined by more than 70% between 2010 and 2015 (and most probably have declined more by 2018); that of 351 total opioid deaths in New Hampshire in 2015, 28 died of heroin as a single-drug overdose and that fentanyl derivatives (most probably imports) were a factor in 253 of the overdose deaths.”


Cork, Ireland: A woman has told Cork’s RedFM radio station that when she sought emergency contraception from a high street pharmacy, a pharmacist accused her of lying about being raped.

She told RedFM’s Neil Prendeville that she had been at the house of a platonic male friend who made advances which she declined. She said he then sexually assaulted her, and that she had been unable to resist the attack due to recent injuries sustained in a car accident.

Upon attending the Garda station, she was asked whether she had consumed any alcohol, the Irish Post reports.

She went to a pharmacy the next day to access emergency contraception, but when she explained what had happened, the pharmacist subjected her to invasive questions and said, “If you’re going to lie to me, I can’t help you”.

Irish pharmacists have the ability to deny emergency contraception if they have a conscientious objection to doing so.

The woman left the pharmacy empty-handed and said that the experience in the pharmacy had been so shocking she could no longer discuss the assault. She subsequently discovered she was pregnant, eventually having to save for two months in order to travel to London to access a termination.


Moncton, New Brunswick: The manager of a Moncton pharmacy has been fined and reprimanded by the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists after a staff member made a fatal error.

CBC News reports that the pharmacy dispensed baclofen suspension at five times the concentration on the label to a patient who subsequently died. A coroner found that the overdose was a contributing factor in the patient’s death.

Peter Ford, manager of Ford’s Family Pharmacy & Wellness Center, was fined CAD$5,000 (AUD$5,065) over the error, as well as CAD $8,000 (AUD$8104) for investigation and complaint process costs.

The error, which was not made by Mr Ford, was attributed to a lack of safety systems, rather than the employee who made it.

The College said it found that Mr Ford’s “initial laxity in managing quality assurance measures and subsequent inaction to address them to be an abrogation of responsibility to patient wellbeing”.

The pharmacy had no staff training or policy set up to ensure a second check when pharmacists used compounding sheets to mix medicines, and that near-miss incidents were not being recorded.

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