World news wrapup: 18 August 2016

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We wrap up the week’s pharmacy news from around the world

New York, US: A pharmacist has been found guilty of distributing black market HIV medications in a scam which netted him and his shell company millions of dollars in illegal billings.

Ira Gross and the company, Chaparral Services, were found guilty after a four-week trial.

Gross was accused of distributing HIV medication illegally obtained from the black market to patients, and faces a state prison sentence of up to eight and one-third to twenty-five years, says Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman’s office.

Medicaid and others were illegally billed $274 million through this scheme, with Gross personally receiving a profit of $25 million.

The convictions were part of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit longstanding “Operation Black Market Meds” investigations.

“The perpetrators of this complex scheme not only cheated the state Medicaid program out of millions of dollars, but preyed on some of New York’s most vulnerable patients just to make a quick buck,” says Attorney General Schneiderman.

“These convictions should send a clear message that my office will not tolerate these types of abhorrent schemes. If you seek to line your pockets at the expense of the health and well-being of New Yorkers, you will be punished.”


Texas, US: Texas Medicaid is now covering the cost of mosquito repellent for women who are pregnant, or between the ages of 10 and 45 years, reports network KXAN.

Eligible patients do not need to attend a doctor’s office for a prescription, but can obtain one over the phone. Eligible women can get up to two cans a month until the end of October.

The move comes amid increasing concerns that there may be a causal link between the Zika virus and microcephaly in babies of affected mothers. There is no evidence yet that mosquitos in Texas are transmitting the virus, KXAN reports.

Pharmacies in the state have been stocking up on the 11 kinds of repellent covered by Texas Medicaid – though KXAN reports that already, one pharmacy has been unable to get more than one type, with the rest on back order.


East Lancashire, UK: A scheme to share electronic patient discharge letters with community pharmacists has improved the safety and speed of patients leaving hospital, Chemist + Druggist reports.

Alistair Grey, lead pharmacist at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, told the magazine that the Refer-to-Pharmacy scheme has already led to improvements in discharge rates at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Despite being clinically ready for discharge, patients in England spent an unnecessary 171,300 days still in hospital and taking up beds, recent NHS England statistics show.

The electronic patient discharge letter is shared with a local community pharmacist; between this and a pilot which placed a dedicated pharmacist on each ward, patients have begun going home earlier and recovering more quickly, Grey says.


Ottawa, Canada: The Canadian Pharmacists Association has said it’s disappointed that new Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations miss an opportunity to improve patient access and safety through pharmacist management and dispensing of the medicine.

However, Health Canada has acknowledged that pharmacy is under consideration as a potential model as the regulations are evaluated.

“Pharmacists have the expertise to mitigate potential risks associated with medical marijuana, including harmful drug interactions, contraindications, and potential addictive behaviour,” says Perry Eisenschmid, CEO, Canadian Pharmacists Association.

“Pharmacist management and distribution would improve access for Canadians in urban, rural and remote communities, in compliance with the requirementsunder the supervision of a licensed health care professional, through an established distribution system proven to protect patient and public safety.”

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