Washington Times Examines Potential Pharmacist Shortage After Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Takes Effect
The Washington Times on Saturday examined how the new Medicare law is "expected to increase the nation's demand for pharmacists, who already are in short supply." According to the Labor Department, about 230,000 pharmacists were employed in 2002 and about 25,000 more will be needed by 2012.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores stated in its latest survey that although the number of pharmacist openings is down from the five-year peak of 7,743 in 2001, the roughly 4,000 openings available in July 2004 was still "substantial." The Times reports that the shortfall in the number of pharmacists is caused in part by expanded job duties driven by rising prescription drug use, which has led some industry trade groups to say that pharmacists "may be overburdened to make up the shortage" when the new Medicare law is implemented in 2006.
Daniel Ashby, pharmacy director at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said that although pharmacy technicians and newer technologies have helped pharmacists address their increased workloads, such strategies do not adequately address the larger recruiting problem.
Doug Scheckelhoff, a spokesperson for the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said that pharmacist positions at hospitals and health clinics can be the hardest to fill because they require more education and skills and compete with high-paying jobs at pharmaceutical and drugstore companies.
NACDS spokesperson Kurt Proctor said drug stores and pharmacy schools will need to increase their recruitment efforts in order to avoid a "crisis period."
However, David Knapp, dean of the University of Maryland's Pharmacy School, said, "The good news is although there is a shortage of pharmacists, there is no shortage in the number of people who want to become pharmacists" (Higgins, Washington Times, 1/8).