World news wrapup: 27 April 2017


UK pharmacists struggle with understaffing; pharmacy security guard arrested for sexual abuse; NZ remains “open” to the concept of funding tampons

UK: The union for UK pharmacists says it has received several reports from pharmacists that they have had to operate a pharmacy with “no staff,” Chemist + Druggist reports.

This included a case where Pharmacists’ Defence Association said it advised a pharmacist to close the shop for a day, because the lack of staff could put patient safety at risk.

C+D recently reported that an anonymous locum pharmacist had written to PDA complaining of dangerous working conditions including inadequate staffing, following the acquisition of a Sainsbury’s pharmacy by Llloydspharmacy.

PDA’s director of defence services Mark Pitt has now told C+D that the number of workplace pressure cases the union has recently handled may suggest a wider problem in the pharmacy sector.

“It is very pressurised when you’re left on your own without any qualified staff and you’ve got 10 people deep at the counter waving their prescriptions,” Mr Pitt said.


Brooklyn, New York: A security guard at a CVS pharmacy in Brooklyn has been arrested following allegations he sexually abused a woman who he had caught shoplifting.

ABC Eyewitness News reports that Jose Ramos caught the women shoplifting in the Kensington area pharmacy and took her into a back office. He then allegedly told her he would not call police if she allowed him to take intimate pictures of her.

The frightened woman allowed Mr Ramos to take the pictures, say police, after which he inappropriately touched her.

CVS Pharmacy has issued a statement apologising to the woman and any other victims and stating that “the alleged actions of Mr Ramos are a gross violation of our policies and wholly contrary to our values”.

“Employees are not permitted to detain suspects unless they are accompanied by another colleague of the same gender as the suspect.”


Chicago, Illinois: A pharmacist has been credited with saving a local man who experienced his first severe food allergy, CBS news reports.

Fifty-seven-year-old Mark Davis was enjoying a meal when he experienced the reaction.

“As I’m eating lunch, my tongue starts to swell up, and I think something really bad is about to happen,” he told CBS Chicago. Mr Davis drove to a nearby CVS pharmacy to buy Benadryl, but pharmacist Bhavini Patel “took one look at him and called the paramedics”.

Ms Patel administered an EpiPen, which paramedic Victor Arlis told CBS News probably saved Mr Davis’ life.

“By the time we got there, the state he was in, he could have gone down the drain really quickly,” Mr Arlis said.


New Zealand: A spokesperson for Pharmac has said it remains “open” to the concept of funding tampons and sanitary pads for all women, Pharmacy Today reports.

The agency recently knocked back an application to fund the items. But its director of operations, Sarah Fitt, has said in a statement that the issue could be examined again.

“After full consideration, our view is that this application does not fall within Pharmac’s scope because it does not show a link to therapeutic benefits related to a health need,” Ms Fitt said.

“Pharmac remains open to considering any future applications for sanitary products where there is evidence of specific health needs.”

The application followed media reports that the cost of tampons and pads was driving women to use rags, or not use sanitary items at all and remain home. Downscheduling expert Natalie Gauld said that she also might consider preparing an application for reclassification to improve access.

One social worker told Pharmacy Today that pharmacy would be the ideal “shame-free” place for women to get free tampons and pads, were they subsidised or provided free for vulnerable children.

“What we want is some way to access sanitary products without shame,” he said.


Boston, Massachusetts: The United States’ Food and Drug Administration, as well as Massachusetts’ state pharmacy board, could be found at fault for the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, a Boston court judge has ruled.

The outbreak emerged from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, when tainted steroids were distributed across the US. More than 750 people became ill and at least 64 died. The Metro West Daily News gave the number of fatalities as “some 77 patients”.

Co-owner and head pharmacist at the centre, Barry J Cadden, was recently found not guilty of all counts of second-degree murder, though he was found guilty of 57 charges including conspiracy, fraud and racketeering.

Now, U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel has denied a motion on behalf of some 20 Tennessee victims of the outbreak, to dismiss claims by a Tennessee surgery centre that the FDA and the state pharmacy board could be found at fault.

Claims made by the surgery centre and its legal representatives include that the FDA had received “numerous” complaints about the New England Compounding Center’s violation of FDA guidance on drug compounding. As far back as 2002, the FDA had been made aware of problems at the NECC, Ms Zobel said.

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