NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 9, 2005

A nationwide shortage of pharmacists has prompted fierce competition between employers for new pharmacy graduates. The shortage of pharmacists, though, is not good for others in the medical field, or their patients, say those who have been watching the shortage worsen over the last decade.

It was fueled by several factors, especially changes in insurance policies and federal pharmaceutical regulations which made drugs available to more people.

Add to that an aging population and more drugs being manufactured and advertised to the public, and the number of prescriptions has increased from 2 billion to 3.2 billion in the last decade. That problem is expected to worsen after the new Medicare prescription drug program begins Jan. 1, pharmacy officials say:

  • The National Association of Chain Drug Stores reported about 5,950 full- and part-time openings in July in its 37,000 member stores.
  • The American Hospital Association reported a 7.4 percent vacancy rate for pharmacists as of December 2004, with 38 percent of its members saying it was harder to recruit pharmacists last year than in 2003.
  • A consortium of pharmacy groups called the Pharmacy Manpower Project issued a report in 2002 predicting 157,000 unfilled pharmacy openings by 2020.

The need to fill all those new prescriptions has been partially addressed by an increase in technology and the use of pharmacy technicians, says David Knapp, dean of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland.

But that hasn't addressed increasing pressure on pharmacists to become more involved in helping patients manage their drugs, especially elderly patients who may take several medicines, says Knapp, who coordinated the conference that released the Manpower report.

Source: Margaret Stafford, "Pharmacist Shortage Worsens Nationwide," Associated Press/Long Island Newsday, November 7, 2005.


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