World news wrapup: 22 December 2016

We take a look at pharmacy news from around the world

Antrim, Northern Ireland: A pharmacist whose dispensing error was linked to the death of a patient has been given a four-month suspended sentence, the BBC reports.

Ethna Walsh, 67, died in 2014 after she was dispensed propranolol instead of prednisolone by Muckamore pharmacist Martin White.

White told police that the two boxes had similar packaging and were side by side on the shelf, and that he was seeing a GP at the time about his feelings of low mood, tiredness and fatigue.

He had also complained of overwork and cramped working conditions.

The judge said that Walsh’s death was due to a “single momentary lapse of concentration”.

White, who has not returned to work as a pharmacist and has said he has no plans to, was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.


UK and Ireland: Pharmacies and wholesalers are part of a network selling benzodiazepines to the criminal market, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency says.

Two Yorkshire pharmacists have been arrested, and pharmacies and wholesalers are under investigation by the Agency after it uncovered “an extensive network of criminality involving businesses such as wholesale dealers and including a small number of registered pharmacies in the UK”.

“Following referrals from enforcement authorities in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, MHRA became aware of a significant diversion of benzodiazepines and other hypnotics/anxiolytics,” the Agency says.

“Uncommonly, the medicines were legitimate UK products which had been diverted from the regulated supply chain.”

Alastair Jeffrey, MHRA Head of Enforcement, said: “Evidence shows extensive criminality involving a number of businesses. As a matter of priority we are working with our regulatory and law enforcement colleagues to identify and prosecute those involved in this activity and to implement preventative measures to make sure this illegal industry is shut down.”


UK: Roger Humbles (pictured), the pharmacist who has become the face of the NHS’ Stay Well This Winter campaign this year, has spoken to The Guardian about the importance of encouraging consumers to see pharmacists as their first port of call.

Humbles, who is also a jazz saxophonist, told The Guardian’s David Brindle that he’s actually “not comfortable standing up in front of an audience and putting myself in the limelight”.

Last year he was one of four health professionals as a spokesperson for the Stay Well This Winter campaign, which was then aimed at older people and those with chronic conditions. Now he is the only face of the new, expanded campaign which targets the entire community.

He told The Guardian that while many consumers are becoming more aware of what pharmacists can offer, a lot visit the GP on instinct when they don’t necessarily need to.

“Lots of patients will go to the GP if they have a cold, but the GP can’t do anything that we can’t do,” he said.


US: Walgreens Boots Alliance and Rite Aid Corporation have announced an agreement to sell 865 Rite Aid stores and assets to Fred’s Pharmacy for US$950 million.

The agreement follows concerns identified by the Federal Trade Commission when it reviewed the proposed acquisition of Rite Aid by Walgreens Boots Alliance. If approved by the FTC, the divestiture would make Fred’s Pharmacy one of the largest drugstore chains in the US.

“We are pleased to have found an experienced pharmacy operator for these stores,” says Walgreens Boots Alliance Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Stefano Pessina.

“With this agreement, we are moving ahead with important work necessary to obtain approval of our acquisition of Rite Aid.”

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