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Federal aid for pharmacy students, faculties, and schools pending in Congress
Legislation aimed at increasing the ranks of pharmacy graduates is now on Congress' agenda. Ten lawmakers, led by Reps. James McGovern (D, Mass.) and Mike Simpson (R, Idaho), are pushing a bill that would authorize federal funding to pharmacy students, faculties, and schools.
Two years ago, a McGovern initiative resulted in the first federal study to document the extent of the pharmacist workforce shortage. It found that the number of full-time and part-time vacancies in community pharmacies had jumped from about 2,700 in February 1998 to nearly 7,000 by February 2000.
The report by the Health Resources & Services Administration cited a rapid increase in demand for pharmacists "coupled with a constrained ability to increase the supply" and warned: "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."
To address those concerns, H.R. 2173, dubbed PharmAid, would provide scholarships and loan forgiveness and require most students to repay the federal government by practicing or teaching in medically underserved areas or in hospitals. To attract faculty, pharmacy schools could apply for funds for a loan-repayment program. Funds also would be available to improve information technology systems and upgrade the buildings and laboratories.
In exchange, the schools would send a majority of their pharmacy students through at least one advanced practice/clinical rotation as a safety-net provider.
"This measure recognizes the shortage of pharmacists in community pharmacy and seeks to provide relief for this critical healthcare issue," said Craig L. Fuller, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. The association was instrumental in getting Congress to approve the study and in suggesting a legislative remedy.
In addition to McGovern and Simpson, the bill is being cosponsored by Reps. James Langevin (D, R.I.), Cynthia McKinney (D, Ga.), Charles "Chip" Pickering (R, Miss.), Mike Ross (D, Ark.), Bobby Rush (D, Ill.), John Shimkus (R, Ill.), Ronnie Shows (D, Miss.), and Ed Whitefield (R, Ky.). A companion measure is expected to be introduced in the Senate shortly.
Michael F. Conlan
Mike Conlan. Federal aid for pharmacy education pending in Congress. Drug Topics 2001;13:16.