AJP takes a look at the week’s pharmacy news from around the world
Alabama, US: Two Alabama pharmacists have been sentenced to 12 and 10 months in prison for their role in the distribution of adulterated drugs, which were compounded at a now-defunct compounding pharmacy: Advanced Specialty Pharmacy, doing business as Meds IV.
David Allen, the former pharmacist-in-charge of Meds IV, and William Timothy Rogers, its former president, both pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. As well as a 12 month and 10 month prison sentence respectively, the two were sentenced to one year of supervised release following their imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
“Compounding pharmacies are entrusted with protecting the public’s health from any harm their drugs may impose and must comply with the law,” says Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“These cases demonstrate that the Department of Justice will continue to work aggressively with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect consumers from drugs compounded under insanitary conditions.”
“Meds IV provided intravenous nutrition to patients, without taking legally required precautions in the preparation of its product,” says U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance for the Northern District of Alabama. “As a result, a number of patients developed serious infections.”
As alleged in the information, Meds IV compounded various drugs for human use, including an intravenous drug known as Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN). TPN is liquid nutrition administered intravenously to patients who cannot or should not receive their nutrition through eating.
The information alleged that beginning in or around February 2011, Meds IV compounded its own amino acid solution, which it then mixed with other ingredients to form TPN.
As charged in the information, amino acid used in compounding the TPN was adulterated in that it was contaminated with Serratia marcescens (S. marcescens) and was prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions.
Manchester, UK: A woman suffering pain from a bad back throttled a student on work experience in order to demand dihydrocodeine from a pharmacist, the Manchester Evening News reports.
Sarah Gray, a 43-year-old former dental nurse, ran into the pharmacy and demanded, “Where’s the dihydrocodeine? Tell me where it is or I will kill you – you have to give it to me,” Manchester Crown Court heard.
A pharmacist and student were on duty at the time, and Gray shoved them out of the way, the prosecuting lawyer said. She then grabbed the student’s throat and told the pharmacist that if she did not give Gray the drugs, she would kill the student. She fled with a box of 30 tablets.
She went back to the same pharmacy later in the month, the Court heard, and was recognised by the pharmacist, who ran away. Gray took more packets of the drugs, amounting to about 100 pills. She then attempted to take the pills right away and was stopped by a male passer-by.
The Court took into account a psychiatric report detailing mental health problems linked to drug use, and the loss of an 11-month-old son in 2001.
Gray was given a 21-month sentence suspended for two years.
United States: The biggest health care fraud takedown in US history has seen 301 individuals charged – including several pharmacists, Pharmacy Times reports.
Collectively, these 301 were allegedly responsible for US$900 million in false billings, said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
“The defendants named in these charges include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and home health care providers,” Ms Lynch and Ms Burwell said. “They are accused of a wide range of serious crimes, from conspiring to commit health care fraud to making false statements and from bribery to money laundering.
“health care fraud is not an abstract violation or benign offense,” they said. “It is a serious crime. The wrongdoers that we pursue in these operations seek to use public funds for private enrichment. They target real people – many of them in need of significant medical care. They promise effective cures and therapies, but they provide none. Above all, they abuse basic bonds of trust – between doctor and patient; between pharmacist and doctor; between taxpayer and government – and pervert them to their own ends.”
Pharmacy Times highlights some of the individuals charged: including a New York pharmacist who allegedly defrauded Medicare and Medicaid by more than US$51 million; and a Missouri physician and pharmacist who allegedly were part of a four-person plot who made more than US$3 million in fraudulent billings.
Edmonton, Canada: An Edmonton pharmacist made fake patient profiles and prescription records to divert more than 7,500 pills from his employer has been fined $40,000 and removed from the Alberta College of Pharmacists’ registrar, reports the Edmonton Sun.
Calvin Boey had previously been found to have diverted about 10,000 tablets of Zopiclone and about 1000 pills of clonazepam while working at a different store; his practice permit was suspended for a time and he was fined $10,000. A framework to allow him to resume work as a pharmacist was established.
Despite being under a supervision order at the Shoppers Drug Mart in Edmonton after he resumed practice in 2014, Boey again began diverting medications, the Sun reports.
He created fake profiles and prescription records in order to make at least 53 fake transactions where he obtained Zopiclone and other sedatives, as well as a small amount of dextroamphetamine.
The Sun says he appeared to have paid for the medicines.
Mumbai, India: At least eight people, including five children, were killed and another seriously injured when a Mumbai pharmacy caught fire.
The pharmacy, Wafa Medical Store, was on the ground floor of a residential building. There have been several fatal fires in high-rises in Mumbai in recent years.
Mumbai police spokesman Ashok Dudhe told Agence France-Presse that “The primary reason for the fire seems to be a short circuit. But officials will have to establish the exact cause once investigations are complete”.