Number of Pharmacists Nationwide Dwindling
The number of pharmacists is dropping, even while the demand for prescription drugs continues to escalate, according to a new Health Resources and Services Administration report, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The study found that the number of empty full- and part-time drug store pharmacist positions across the nation increased from 2,700 to 7,000 over the past two years, and the number of individuals applying to U.S. pharmaceutical colleges is falling. The report states, "The factors causing the current shortage are of a nature not likely to abate in the near future without fundamental changes in pharmacy practice and education." While pharmacists are becoming fewer, prescription drugs are as popular as ever: The number of retail prescriptions dispensed in the United States rose 44% between 1992 and 1999, the survey found. If no action is taken to counter the shortage, the survey predicted that pharmacists would eventually spend less time counseling patients and would be at greater risk for "fatigue-related errors."
As a short-term remedy for the shortage, the report suggests that drug stores use technicians for additional jobs, which would allow pharmacists to "focus on tasks only they are authorized to do." Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), who pushed for the study last year, urged Congress to consider offering additional financial aid as an enticement for students to enter pharmaceutical colleges. He also proposed that more pharmaceutical colleges offer year-round courses, allowing students to obtain their degrees in three years as opposed to the standard six years. "Entering a pharmaceutical college is a long commitment and a lot of money. There's something we can do to help that," McGovern said (Gorlick, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/12). Another report released by HRSA earlier this week found that the country might soon see shortages of dentists, anesthesiologists and gerontologists (California Healthline, 12/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.