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Bureau of Health Professions Wants Information Verifying Pharmacist Shortage

Katherine M. Bennett

As part of a federal study on the supply of pharmacists in the workforce, the Bureau of Health Professions wants information, including data and studies, verifying that the nation has a shortage of pharmacy practitioners.

The Healthcare Research and Quality Act of 1999 requires the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) to study the pharmacist supply and report the findings to Congress by Dec. 9, 2000. HHS will consider comments received by May 1 on the following 10 issues: 

  1. Shortage of pharmacists; for example, vacancy rates for pharmacists' jobs over time, existing documentation of delayed store openings or reduction in store hours, existing documentation of signing bonuses and other hiring incentives, and increases in wages; 
  2. Difficulties that communities may be experiencing in accessing pharmacy services. HHS is particularly interested in difficulties confronting those in rural or underserved areas, services for the elderly, and other evidence of unmet needs due to a shortage of pharmacists; 
  3. How pharmacies and employers are addressing a shortage of pharmacists; 
  4. The use of technicians, and State laws governing ratios of pharmacists to technicians, and limitations on the functions technicians are permitted to perform, and any requirements for technician certification; 
  5. The impact of the growth of managed care and third-party coverage of prescriptions on pharmacy practice; 
  6. Problems or adverse events connected with a shortage of pharmacists, e.g., medication errors; 
  7. The impact a drug benefit for the Medicare population might have on prescription volume and the demand for pharmacists; 
  8. Uses of automation or technology to assist pharmacists, such as the use of electronic transmission of prescriptions, methods of streamlining dispensing processes, and technologies that may be under development to improve efficiency of pharmacists in their duties; 
  9. The impact of Internet and mail order pharmacies on the demand for pharmacists; and 
  10. Existing information on the current pharmacist education process; in particular, applications to pharmacy programs, the impact that the shift to the doctor of pharmacy as the first professional degree may have on pharmacy supply, trends in graduates taking residencies, and students' job preferences.

HHS requests that people and organizations submitting information organize their comments according to the above numbering system. Not every issue has to be addressed. 

All comments should be mailed to: 

Vincent C. Rogers, D.D.S., M.P.H., Associate Administrator
Bureau of Health Professions
Health Resources and Services Administration, Room 8-05
Parklawn Building
5600 Fishers Lane Rockville, MD 20857