World news wrapup: 5 October 2017


Free drugs destroying pharmacy sector in Jamaica; pharmacist assaulted after patient death; US medicinal cannabis classes stopped over legal issues

Jamaica: Journalist and pharmacy owner Milton Wray has condemned the Jamaican Government’s policy on subsidised drugs and “free medicine” for all, warning that it is jeopardising the pharmacy sector.

A “severe” medicines shortage is on the horizon, he warns, as well as a significant number of pharmacy closures.

“Thousands of retail pharmacy jobs are now dangling precariously on the line, as several pharmacy establishments have been crippled, and once thriving businesses wobble along,” Mr Wray writes in the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Government’s National Health Fund has developed a network of pharmacies which distribute drugs to all Jamaicans regardless of income, at no charge, “directly undermining small businesses in the pharmacy trade,” he writes.

“In fact, in some instances, these Drug Serv pharmacy outlets have been situated in proximity to already-established, privately owned retail pharmacies.

“Business owners have literally broken down in tears as they watch their business crumble.”

 

Ludhiana, India: A pharmacist has been beaten up and his shop vandalised after an infant allegedly died after being given medicine from his shop.

According to the Times of India, Anita Dyal brought her nine-month-old son Akash to Pal Medical Store, where she spoke to the pharmacist, Rajesh Pal, about her child’s fever.

She told the Times that Mr Pal claimed to be a doctor and administered medicine on the spot.

The child developed a rash after 15 minutes, she said, after which he was taken to hospital, where he died.

“We don’t know which medicine he gave or if it was expired as he took it away from us,” Ms Dyal said.

“And when we went to him to ask about the medicine, he started shouting at us and slapped me.”

Family members and neighbours staged a protest at the pharmacy. Mr Pal was assaulted after he allegedly slapped Ms Dyal, and his store was vandalised.

 

Hong Kong: A group of young pharmacists in Hong Kong are tackling confusion and cultural beliefs which pose barriers to correct use of medicines, reports the South China Morning Post.

The Post spoke to pharmacists Karen Lau and Matthew Wong, members of the Pharmacists Connect group of young pharmacists, which has an aim of educating consumers and widening the role of pharmacists in the community.

Mr Wong said that cultural and traditional Chinese beliefs about drugs are still widespread in Hong Kong, and that such beliefs frequently lead patients to under-dose. Part of the problem is fear of side-effects.

“In the past, every box of drugs in Hong Kong had a red poison icon on it,” he told the Post. “The board governing medication is called The Pharmacy and Poisons Board of Hong Kong. If every drug is termed a poison, people may think medication is poisonous.”

Difficulties with translation from English to Chinese often mean that patients have no idea what drug they are taking, he says.

“If you ask someone in Hong Kong what a statin is, they probably won’t know. They only know this is the white tablet for lowering cholesterol.”

The pharmacists hope to achieve a separation of the dispensing and prescribing roles in Hong Kong: currently, doctors are able to do both.

They say that this reduces awareness of the role of pharmacists.

 

Baltimore, Maryland: Planned classes on medicinal cannabis have been cancelled by the University of Maryland-Baltimore School of Pharmacy over legal concerns.

The classes had been planned to cover cultivation, manufacturing, dispensing and laboratory standards, Drug Topics reports.

But following a consultation with the Maryland Attorney-General’s office, the University told its School of Pharmacy not to go ahead with the training.

“The decision is due to legal concerns about United States law, and does not reflect any school concerns about the substantive content of the course materials,” Alex Likowski, Director of Media Relations, Communications, and Public Affairs, told Drug Topics.

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