Survey says: R.Ph. shortage still causing concern

November 8, 2004

More than 4,000 chain pharmacist positions were open as of July 1, according to a National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation survey that's been conducted every six months since February 1998

Respondents from 77 chain companies, representing 27,383 stores, returned completed surveys. The responses represent about 75% of the current estimate of 36,503 chain pharmacies in this country. Highlights of the survey include the following: chain community pharmacy employs more than 110,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) pharmacists (part-time jobs were combined into the corresponding number of full-time jobs). Of the 99,577 full-time R.Ph.s, 55% are male and 45% are female. Chain community pharmacy employs more than 146,000 pharmacy technicians (this may include people with more than one position). Of these techs, 83,852 are full-time and 62,634 are part-time.

Commenting on the findings, Kurt Proctor, Ph.D., president of the NACDS Foundation, told Drug Topics that the R.Ph. shortage, which peaked in 2001, may have lessened as of July 2004, but he warned that there is still a very significant shortage that has to be addressed. "We got through the transition from B.S. to Pharm.D. degrees to where most of the impact of that change has been felt," he said. "Class size has settled down to where it is going to be in the six-year Pharm.D. programs. Some new schools have opened, and others have expanded their class sizes or have opened satellite campuses."

Proctor praised pharmacy schools that "have stepped up fairly nicely in the number of grads they are putting out." He pointed out that areas located near pharmacy schools usually have less of a pharmacist shortage than other regions because students usually remain in the neighborhood after they graduate.

"For a long time Dallas/Fort Worth had a tremendous shortage because it was the biggest metropolitan area in the country without a pharmacy school," explained Proctor. "When they are addressing a shortage situation, schools try to attract students from areas of their state that have a particular shortage. If the students don't stay where the school is when they graduate, the only other place they are likely to go is back home."

Finally Proctor said, "If pharmacy is going to remain primarily a dispensing function, there may be too many pharmacists in the future, but I don't think that is the future that most folks see. They see a future that has pharmacists more involved with patient care outcomes and medication therapy management and making sure medications, including OTCs, are used correctly."

For more information on the survey, visit http://www.nacdsfoundation.org/