Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rx for Pharmacists - Who's Your Supplier?

A Different Kind of Drug Crisis

Several years ago the American Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) determined that practicing pharmacists in the U.S. should have a Doctor's degree instead of a Bachelor's. So a new degree was born - the Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm. D. degree. Any applicant who desires to be a pharmacist must have graduated from an ACPE accredited school and earned a Pharm. D. Note: There is an alternative application method for graduates of foreign colleges of pharmacy, but the rule is clear for American grads.

The field of pharmacy has become a lucrative one with starting salaries often over $ 100,000 with "signing bonuses" of up to $ 50,000 for those willing to accept certain locations. The field of pharmacy has evolved from "count, stick, and pour" to a complex field. New drugs come on the market almost daily and not only doctors but pharmacists must stay on the cutting edge. Pharmacists also now can specialize in institutional pharmacy, pain management, or a variety of other areas of specialty.

A study done several years ago noted a shortage of 5,000 pharmacists in the U.S. Existing pharmacy schools are simply unable to keep up with the need for licensed pharmacists. Additionally, it seems like new pharmacys open daily on every corner and with 24-hour service, two or three pharmacists are needed where one had been adequate. Further, pharmacy is a graying profession. More pharmacists are closer to retirement than are entering the field. Hence, the shortage continues to grow.

In the past half decade or so at least five new colleges of pharmacy have opened. Despite that, the estimated shortage of pharmacists has grown to 6,000. Florida was the first state to allow pharmacists to perscribe drugs but some experts believe that within the next decade, nearly all states will follow.

One possible answer to the shortage is for ACPE to accredit colleges of pharmacy outside the U.S. The organization has one accredited program located in Lebanon, but plans no others. The problem will not go away as aging baby bomers become more intimate with their pharmacists. The solution seems to be either provide for international colleges of pharmacy to be accredited, allow para-professionals (i.e. pharmacy technicians, etc.) to assume more pharmacist duties, or continue the crisis.

Dr. Forgot

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