World news wrapup: 11 August 2016

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AJP takes a look at pharmacy news from around the world

Missouri, US: Five pharmacies from four states have filed a class-action lawsuit against pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) Express Scripts, reports Drug Topics.

The pharmacies allege Express Scripts used confidential patient data to steer customers away from their brick-and-mortar retail pharmacies and into the PBM’s mail-order business.

Express Scripts manages more than 25% of the insured in the US and has access to the patient data to verify eligibility and to collect insurance payments, Drug Topics reports.

However, Express Scripts’ senior director of corporate communications has called the lawsuit baseless and said the company would defend itself vigorously.

The lawsuit was filed this month in US District Court Eastern District of Missouri and as many as 50,000 pharmacies could eventually join the action, say the plaintiffs.


New Zealand: A New Zealand pharmacist has been ordered to undergo skill reassessment after giving a woman the wrong prescription, forcing her to go to hospital while on an overseas holiday.

The woman was prescribed enoxaparin sodium 4000IU to prevent deep vein thrombosis before an overseas trip, but the pharmacist incorrectly dispensed epoetin alfa (Eprex) 4000IU instead, a drug used for the treatment of severe anaemia of renal origin.

On the day of her flight the woman injected herself with two of the Eprex injections and travelled overseas, but soon started feeling “breathless, felt weak, dizzy and had flu-like symptoms as well as a headache” and her legs became covered in bruises.

She was then admitted to hospital, according to a complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner, and it wasn’t until two weeks later that the pharmacist discovered his error.

Commissioner Anthony Hill found the pharmacist alone was responsible for the mistake, noting there were physical differences between the two drugs, their packaging and the fact one was stored in a fridge and the other on a shelf.

He recommended the pharmacist undergo an assessment on processing, dispensing and checking prescriptions.


UK: A survey of almost 500 British GPs has found that 31% employ a pharmacist and a further 16% are considering doing so.

The GPonline opinion poll found more than half of GPs think that increasing the skill mix in their practices could help address the current shortage of GPs.

However, 35% said it was not part of the solution, while 12% were unsure.

According to GPonline, NHS England has recently upped investment in the scheme to recruit clinical pharmacists to work in GP practices.


Washington DC, US: There has been a 150% increase in diagnosed cases of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in recent years in the US, experts have said at a briefing in Washington DC, and 3.5 million Americans are now infected with the blood-borne disease.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that deaths from HCV increased from 11,501 in 2003 to 19,659 in 2014, making it the top infectious disease killer in the country.

Director of the Division of Viral Hepatitis at CDC Dr John Ward, who spoke at the briefing, said the health organisation views HCV as an “urgent and critical” health crisis.

The good news is that with new medication 80% of HCV infections are curable and 80% of new HCV infections are preventable, according to the presentation.

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