World News Wrapup: 20 July 2016

Pharmacy news from around the world, including more reports of Clonidine overdoses in children

Jakarta, Indonesia:  Police have named 14 hospitals and eight midwife clinics which allegedly administered fake vaccines to children, reports The Age.

Four criminal syndicates have allegedly been producing counterfeit vaccines throughout Jakarta and Java for up to 13 years.

More than 20 people have been arrested, including three doctors.

Health officials claim the counterfeit vaccines are unlikely to have caused harmful side effects given that they only contained antibiotics and intravenous fluids.

It is not yet known how many children received the fake vaccines and are vulnerable to the diseases they were supposed to be protected from.

According to The Age only a small percentage of vaccines in Indonesia are imported and they cost far more than those locally produced.

It has also became apparent that Indonesia’s Food and Drugs Agency had been warned some time ago about the issue but little was done until a police investigation earlier this year.

“Glaxo reported the existence of the fake vaccine in 2011 to the police and BPOM [the Food and Drugs Agency] but there was no reaction,” says Dr Mohammad Adib Khumaidi, the secretary-general of the Indonesian Medical Association.

The government is offering free injections to all children who were initially vaccinated at the facilities named by police.

US:  After a pharmacist gave a boy the wrong dosage of Clonidine which his parents claim killed him, other parents have come out saying they have had similar experiences with the drug.

According to the boy’s mother, eight-year-old Jake Steinbrecher had been taking the medication for three years to help manage his hyperactivity. However he immediately had a reaction when he took his usual dose last October, and eventually died on June 8 from “an autoimmune response believed to have been triggered by the [pharmacy] error,” his family said in a press release.

When tested, the results showed that the pharmacist had mixed 1000 times the prescribed dosage, Denver7 reports: instead of taking 0.03mg of the drug, Steinbrecher ingested 30mg.

Steinbrecher’s mother told that she has been approached by parents who told her their children also (non-fatally) overdosed on compounded, liquid versions of Clonidine that had been erroneously filled with too high of a dosage.

In those incidents, one boy was given a dosage 400 times the amount prescribed, while a baby was given 600 times the prescribed amount, she says.

A third parent, Alia Skiffington, also contacted Steinbrecher to share her daughter’s experience in 2007.

Laboratory tests showed Leona, then eight years old, had taken a dose of 23 milligrams per millilitre of Clonidine, while she was supposed to take 0.025 milligrams per millilitre.

The Skiffingtons were awarded $200,000 in a settlement with the pharmacy in question, which was also reprimanded by their region’s pharmacy board. The pharmacist who filled the prescription was made to pay a fine and continuing education classes but continues to practice, according to

When dealing with a “high alert medication” like Clonidine pharmacists should exercise extreme caution, says Dr Frank Federico, chair of the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention in the US.

UK: Community pharmacies are bracing for budget cuts following the Brexit decision and subsequent government changes.

As new government ministers begin their work, one decision that is being keenly awaited is the possible sign-off to budget cuts for British “High Street” pharmacies, reports the BBC.

UK’s Department of Health says the changes are an opportunity to bring pharmacists’ skills closer to GP practices and care homes.

However trade bodies are reportedly fearful that thousands of pharmacies could close.

“There seems to be a policy mismatch. The government puts out adverts telling people to avoid [emergency departments] and their GP, and go to pharmacies first – and yet they’re pulling the rug out from under our feet,” one pharmacist told the BBC.

A spokesman from the National Pharmacy Association said: “The Department of Health is conducting a dangerous experiment which could see local pharmacies close. Patients would be the biggest losers.

“Alistair Burt’s successor as pharmacy minister should be given the opportunity to thoroughly review the Department of Health’s plans before any steps are taken towards implementation.”

New Delhi, India: Brick-and-mortar chemists are taking e-pharmacies to court in a bid to shut them down, according to the India Times.

The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) will approach ten High Courts in India against the central and state drug regulators for lack of action against the “illegal” operation of online pharmacies, which they claim compromises patient safety.

In response, online pharmacies are reportedly gearing up for the fight in the hopes that it would clarify misconceptions about the processes they follow and also “expose” the public safety hazards posed by offline pharmacies.

Online pharmacies are illegal in India and the central and state drug regulators’ negligence in allowing them to run risks public health, says AIOCD general secretary Suresh Gupta.

India’s 1940 Drugs & Cosmetics Act does not allow online portals to sell medicines, says Gupta, adding that a major problem with online pharmacies is that the medicine could change in transit.

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