World news wrapup: 16 April 2020

Pharmacist in alleged plot to blow up rival store; city sector lockdown after pharmacist self-treats for COVID-19; pharmacist under investigation for alleged face mask hoarding and price gouging

Virginia, US: A Maryland man has been arrested and charged in Virginia after he allegedly plotted to bomb a Nebraska pharmacy in a bid to reduce competition for his darknet business.

The New York Daily News reports that William Burgamy was allegedly obtaining a supply of diverted medicines, including oxycodone and other narcotics, from a Nebraska pharmacist for illegal sale over the internet without prescription.

He is accused of discussing, with this pharmacist supplier, a plot to destroy another Nebraska pharmacy which was in competition with the diversion supplier.

The News reports that the pair exchanged texts which included a plan and list of equipment for blowing up the rival pharmacy, including body armour, weapons, bottles and lighter fluid. Mr Burgamy’s pharmacist supplier had also given him a map to help him leave the area after attacking the other pharmacy.

“The defendant is a dangerous and volatile individual who schemed to blow up that pharmacy using Molotov cocktails,” prosecutor Raj Parekh said.

Mr Burgamy’s lawyer said that the discussions between the pharmacist and Mr Burgamy were “hyperbole”.


Faridabad, India: A pharmacist has been hospitalised and charged after he tested positive for COVID-19, then proceeded to treat his symptoms himself, reports the Hindustan Times.

According to Faridabad police commissioner KK Rao, the pharmacist developed symptoms in early April and then began to take antibiotics to treat them without first consulting a doctor.

“When he did not get any relief, he consulted a doctor in a private hospital and got his test conducted. He tested positive on April 9,” he said.

The pharmacist, and several people who had been close contact with him including three staff and five family members, were identified and quarantined.

The hospital informed authorities including the police, and the pharmacist was charged with disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant, negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life, malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life, and offences under the 2005 Disaster Management Act.

Police say he may have been in contact with more than 100 people since becoming ill, but not all have yet been identified.

Medical teams have been ordered to screen everyone living in the immediate area, which has been locked down and declared a containment zone.

“We have placed an advertisement in all local newspapers and social media requesting people to inform the district administration or police if they visited his shop in Sector 28 or met him during this period,” said the commissioner.


New York, New York: Agents from the USA’s Homeland Security Investigations and New York Police Department have raided the homes of Richard Schirripa, a pharmacist who had allegedly hoarded 6,500 N95 masks and was selling them at a markup.

The respirator masks were seized at Mr Schirripa’s Madison Avenue and Long Island residences, and he is now under federal investigation for allegedly price-gouging, reports ABC News.

As the COVID-19 pandemic develops, the United States now has the highest number of cases in the world, with New York City particularly badly affected.

ABC News reports that the authorities were tipped off by a person who alleged to the HSI that Mr Schirripa was selling the sought-after masks in bulk at “inflated prices”.

An HSI agent recorded a phone call with the pharmacist, who is reported to have said, “the masks I have, I bought prior to the outbreak in the US. When it hit China, I went out to get large quantities and unfortunately I paid very high for them, but you know something, when you have something no one else has, it’s not a high price… I used to sell a box of these for like USD$20 [AUD$31], now it’s like USD$15 [AUD$24] a mask.”

He later sold an undercover agent 15 boxes of commercial-grade N95 masks and one of surgical-grade N95 masks for nearly USD$2,700 [AUD$4,243], according to court records.


Birkenhead, England: A “much-loved” pharmacy worker, Mandy Siddorn, has passed away as a result of contracting COVID-19.

The 61-year-old, from Birkenhead on Merseyside, worked for Swettenham Chemists as a registered accuracy checking technician, reports Metro UK.

Swettenham Chemists said in a statement that “It is with much sadness that we acknowledge the loss of one of our Swettenham ‘family’, Mandy, who passed away as a result of contracting coronavirus”.

“Mandy worked across our Wirral and Chester branches as a registered checking technician, the highest non-pharmacist role, and did so with outstanding professionalism and accuracy.

“We are all devastated by this tragic loss and our thoughts go out to all who knew her. Mandy is being remembered as a loyal, hardworking, dedicated and joyous friend to all of us. Yesterday was probably the hardest day the teams have ever faced.”


UK: As a result of confusion over when pharmacists should wear fluid-resistant surgical masks, Public Health England has had to change its guidance on personal protective equipment.

The Pharmaceutical Journal reports that contradicting advice was issued by pharmaceutical bodies. On April 2, Public Health published guidance on the masks, saying that the fluid-resistant masks were recommended if social distancing could not be managed.

However the advice was then updated on April 10 to recommend that pharmacy workers should only wear PPE if they are in contact with possible, or confirmed, cases of COVID-19.

”If social distancing of 2m is maintained there is no indication for PPE in a pharmacy setting. If social distancing is not maintained, though, direct care is not provided, sessional use of FRSM is recommended for contact with possible or confirmed cases of COVID-19,” the advice now reads.

Contradictory advice has been published by stakeholders, with one Public Health England spokesperson telling pharmacists at a COVID-19 webinar that FRSMs should only be worn when dealing with patients with potential symptoms of infection with the novel coronavirus.

Stakeholder groups had expressed concern about this advice, saying it was ambiguous.

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