World news update: 19 January 2017

We take a look at pharmacy news from around the world

Boston, Massachusetts: The trial of Barry Cadden, the compounding pharmacist facing charges of murder, mail fraud and racketeering, has begun five years after his business was allegedly linked to a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak.

Cadden, a former owner of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, is alleged to have supplied contaminated methylprednisolone acetate which caused 64 deaths and 750 meningitis infections across at least seven US states.

According to the Boston Globe, prosecutors allege Cadden oversaw the compounding, packaging and shipping of the steroid.

“It’s a story of greed, it’s a story of cutting corners, it’s a story of fraud,” said prosecutor George Varghese in court this week.

One of Cadden’s defence attorneys told the Court that there is no evidence Cadden caused the contamination and that he cannot be held responsible for the errors of a corporation, the Globe reports.


Kseifa, Israel: An Israeli pharmacist has admitted to destroying cancer drugs as revenge for not being promoted, Haaretz reports.

Clalit Health Services, which had employed the pharmacist for 10 years, filed a 4.5 million shekel (US$1.2 million) lawsuit against him, stating that while the drugs can’t be recovered, the defendant could be forced to pay for them and for his actions.

The lawsuit says the pharmacist destroyed drugs, collectively worth over 4 million shekels, on three different occasions. The first time, the pharmacist said he accidentally left the drugs unrefrigerated and decided to destroy them after remembering them and realising they could no longer be used.

According to the pharmacist, the second occasion involved him hiding an error in a drug order form.

But the third time, the pharmacist told a security officer that the destruction – this time of 3.3 million shekels’ worth of cancer drugs – was deliberate.

“I did it because I wanted to take revenge on the organisation,” he reportedly said, because he had not been promoted. “I kept thinking the system had screwed me and so decided to take revenge.”

This time he ordered medicines and instead of distributing them, put them into containers to be collected for destruction.


UK: The UK’s Department of Health has declined to confirm whether the Martin White case will be considered while it plans to decriminalise dispensing errors, Chemist + Druggist reports.

White, a Northern Irish pharmacist who incorrectly dispensed propranolol instead of prednisolone to a woman who died after taking the incorrect medicine, was handed a four-month suspended sentence last month.

UK pharmacy groups have been lobbying to have such errors decriminalised for some time. Last week the vice chair of the all-party pharmacy group Oliver Colvile, who has also been campaigning to decriminalise dispensing errors, expressed disappointment in Parliament that the issue had not yet been resolved.

Before White was sentenced, Gloucestershire pharmacist Pam Adams set up a petition to “stop pharmacists being criminalised for being human”.

At the time of writing the petition had attracted over 1700 signatures.


UK: A case management hearing in the High Court has determined that the National Pharmacy Association will have its case against pharmacy funding cuts heard in March, alongside the case being brought by the PSNC.

NPA and PSNC will present separate, complementary cases. Both organisations are seeking a Judicial Review of the Government’s decision to impose funding cuts on pharmacies in England.

“We are fighting this case to protect patients and communities in deprived areas, and to smoke out the flawed thinking behind the Government cuts to pharmacy funding,” says NPA chairman Ian Strachan.

“Had the Department of Health properly considered the impact of its cuts, it would have realised that the cuts will have a disproportionate effect on people with legally protected characteristics and those who live in the most deprived areas of England, where there is already a lack of NHS healthcare provision.”


US: Bipartisan legislation introduced reintroduced to the US Senate aims to authorise Medicare payments to pharmacists who are qualified to provide certain services for elderly patients.

The legislation is aimed at improving the health of patients in areas where doctors are less accessible.

“Where that pharmacist is licensed to provide a service, Medicare ought to pay the pharmacist for it,” says Senator Chuck Grassley (Republican, Iowa).

“It’s good for pharmacists because they get paid for providing services to rural seniors. It’s good for rural seniors because they keep access to their local pharmacist and don’t have to go to the doctor for straightforward medication management.”

Senator Bob Casey (Democrat, Pennsylvania) says, “Across the country and in Pennsylvania pharmacists play a critical role in helping seniors receive access to routine healthcare services like wellness checks.

“This legislation will aid those in rural communities who may not live in close proximity to the doctor but do have regular contact with their pharmacist.”

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