World news wrapup: 9 May 2019

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Almost all Pakistani pharmacies have no pharmacist; pharmacist in US$200 million health care fraud indictment; is “hub and spoke” making a comeback in the UK?

Pakistan: While 15,000 pharmacists remain unemployed in Pakistan, around 95% of pharmacies are being run without one, reports the Gulf News.

Chairman of the Patients’ Rights Forum, Dr Noor Mehar, warned on Sunday that of Pakistan’s 40,000 pharmacies, only 5% have qualified pharmacists dispensing prescription medicines, while the vast majority are run by unqualified managers.

In a 2018 crackdown in Lahore, 240 pharmacies were closed down for not employing a pharmacist.

Dr Noor warned that legislation states pharmacists are required in order for a licence to run a pharmacy – or medical store – to be obtained.

Jobs for qualified pharmacists in many hospitals remain vacant, he added, despite a 2006 Court ruling that hospitals need to employ pharmacists.


UK: Government interest in the controversial “hub and spoke” pharmacy model may again be ramping up, reports Chemist + Druggist.

The trade publication has conducted an investigation into whether NHS England is likely to renew its encouragement of the model, under which independent pharmacies would be permitted to operate centralised dispensing hubs which then send medicines to the “spoke”. The model was fiercely resisted by UK pharmacy stakeholder groups.

C+D’s investigation revealed that while there have been no more recent formal meetings on the matter, NHS England’s recent behaviour, and the observations of a lawyer, could mean renewed Government interest.

Health care lawyer Noel Wardle has predicted that pharmacists should “watch out” for a new consultation on the model.

“I suspect it will come back and I suspect it won’t be knocked back this time,” Mr Wardle said.

He said by his observation, less-formal discussions are already being held on the matter.


Birmingham, Alabama: Ten defendants, including a pharmacist and the owners of a Haleyville, Alabama pharmacy have been charged with 103 counts relating to fraud, reports WJHG.

They have been charged with fraudulently billing health care insurers and prescription medicine administrators for more than US$200 million (AUD$284,988,000) worth of prescription drugs.

One prescription plan administrator paid more than USD$29,000 (AUD$41,323) for a single tube of ointment which was described as a treatment for “general wounds”.

“Motivated by greed, the defendants executed a brazen health care fraud conspiracy and scheme that cost health insurance plans, including those that protect the elderly, disabled, military members and veterans, millions of dollars,” said US Attorney Jay E. Town.

“Their scheme deprived health insurance plans of money that could have gone to assist patients with real medical needs. To date, this investigation has resulted in 28 people being charged.”


New Jersey, US: People in parts of the US which have a particular problem with opioid use are finding it difficult to get their hands on Narcan, a new study has found.

The research, from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, found that New Jersey pharmacies serving patients who may need Narcan the most often do not stock the life-saving drug, reports WHYY News.

The researchers rang all the pharmacies in 10 cities and asked whether they stocked Narcan – or the generic, naloxone – and found that the pharmacies in larger and poorer cities were less likely to have the drug in stock.

These were the cities which had the biggest issues with opioids, which the researchers measured using hospital admissions for opioid overdoses.

In Atlantic City, only one of the six pharmacies stocked the drug, while only a quarter of those in Camden had it on their shelves.

The researchers suggested that lack of demand could be the issue.

“If you’re asking somebody in a lower-income area to go in and buy an antidote that they may never need, that’s a big ask,” said senior study author Diane Calello, medical director of the New Jersey Poison Control Center.

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