World pharmacy news roundup: 31 March 2016

Our weekly wrapup of pharmacy news from around the world

New York: A Long Island pharmacist has pled guilty to charges regarding his connection to a nationwide scheme to sell diverted HIV medicines to New Yorkers, and copped a fine of over US$5 million.

Glenn Schabel pled guilty to the charges and will be sentenced to up to two and a third to seven years’ state prison, and forfeit US$5,456,267 to the New York State Medicaid Program, New York Attorney General Eric T Schneiderman announced.

“This Defendant, a licensed pharmacist, abused the public’s trust and became a participant in this multi-million dollar scheme that at its core preyed on the sick,” says Schneiderman.

Schabel and three other individuals and ten companies were arrested for using a network of bogus prescription medication wholesalers in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and California to launder money and to sell over $274 million in diverted prescription medications obtained from illegal or unknown sources, to the parent company of MOMS Pharmacy, a corporate pharmacy where Schabel was both the supervising pharmacist and compliance officer.

The New York State Medicaid program ultimately reimbursed MOMS Pharmacy in excess of $150,000,000 for the diverted medications dispensed to those MOMS Pharmacy patients that were covered by Medicaid.


New Zealand: The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand is looking for a new chief executive, following the resignation of Lee Hohaia, who is relocating to Auckland to be with her family.

“Lee has been a champion and worked tirelessly for community pharmacy during her time with the Guild, and her passion and dedication will be sorely missed by the sector,” says Pharmacy Guild president Ken Orr.

“Lee has demonstrated strong and capable leadership throughout a significant period of change. Lee has been particularly effective at building valuable relationships with our many stakeholders, supporting and strengthening our membership, and developing a strong and dedicated team at Guild HQ.”

He says that while the Guild is now looking for a new Chief Executive, it’s business as usual as it continues to build closer relationships with general practice and advocate for New Zealand communities to have high quality pharmacy services close to their homes.


United States: New birth control laws in Oregon and California reduce barriers to contraceptive access, and may reduce costs and unintended pregnancies, a new article in JAMA reports, but also shift the burden of prescribing onto pharmacies.

In Oregon, pharmacists can prescribe birth control (the oral contraceptive pill or hormonal patches) for women aged 18 or over; California is expected to follow suit later in the year, after already passing similar legislation. Colorado, Washington and New Mexico are considering similar laws.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other stakeholders, the new law does not go far enough, leaving an unnecessary barrier between women and contraceptive access.

For example, pharmacist-prescribed birth control pills may shift contraceptive use to these medicines and away from implants and IUDs.

“Even though this approach provides an excellent way to economise health care costs and free up physicians and resources, it stops short of fully alleviating the burden of prescription on women who seek to access contraceptives,” write the authors.

“In a country with a substantial rate of unintended pregnancy, evidence supports policy efforts that go further in removing barriers and restrictions on contraceptive access.”


Wales: A bill which would have introduced compulsory pharmaceutical needs assessment has been rejected by politicians following a disagreement between the Labour and Plaid Cymru Parties.

Chemist + Druggist reports that Welsh pharmacists are “extremely disappointed” by the rejection.

It reports that prior to the vote on the bill, “Labour assembly member Leighton Andrews likened Plaid Cymru’s support of Labour on a separate matter to a ‘cheap date’.” Plaid Cymru voted against the Labour bill.

Stakeholders told C+D that the rejection was surprising and public health needs had not been prioritised; one pharmacy owner described the decision as “shocking”.

The bill would have introduced compulsory PNAs, which would require health boards to use these in determining whether pharmacy applicants met a need for pharmaceutical services in local areas, as well as an effective ban on e-cigarettes.

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