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Safety warnings

Pharmacists told to report packages containing unidentified substance

A warning has been issued to inform pharmacists that they should notify the police, NHS England and Public Health England if they receive an unsolicited package.

The chief medical officer (CMO) has issued a ‘class one’ alert to all hospital and community pharmacists regarding unsolicited packages being sent to health-related organisations over the past 24 hours.

The CMO said that pharmacies should quarantine any package from the ‘Cyrus Project’ and notify the police, NHS England and Public Health England that they have received it.

Class one alerts are designed to trigger immediate action, and although it said that it is “highly unlikely the substance contained therein is hazardous” all organisations should take precautions to ensure they do not come into contact with any of the contents.

The alert says: “An organisation identifying itself as ‘The Cyrus Project’ has sent unsolicited packages, with accompanying literature requesting testing on the enclosed sample, to a number of health related organisations over the last 24 hours.

“Public Health England has confirmed initial testing on packages received to date shows it is highly unlikely the substance contained therein is hazardous.”

Pharmacists are advised to ”handle the package with care, wearing nitrile gloves and quarantine it in a secure leak-proof container”.

The alert goes on to say: “Wash your hands, or any part of your body that comes into contact with the package, with water. Alert your local NHS England EPRR [Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response] contact that you have received a package. Notify Public Health England via phe.nicc20@phe.gov.uk (providing a named contact on site for PHE to liaise with). Contact your local police force via 101 and inform them you are in receipt of a package.”

Counter Terrorism Policing is managing the response, and forensic testing is currently under way on the substances received. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205280

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