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JCPP Reviews Pharmacist Shortage and Potential Medicare Drug Benefit

William A. Zellmer

National trends in the supply and demand of pharmacists and the prospect for a Medicare outpatient prescription drug benefit were the major topics at the Feb. 16 meeting of the Joint Commission of Pharmacy Practitioners (JCPP), the forum for national pharmacist organizations that meets quarterly.

Katherine K. Knapp, Ph.D., of the University of Pacific, a researcher on the pharmacist workforce, reviewed the dimensions of the issue, reasons for the undersupply of pharmacists, and the opportunities for achieving a balance in supply and demand. She highlighted recent ASHP research that offers insights into the expanding patient-care role of pharmacists. 

Community pharmacy groups, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (not a JCPP member but a participant in this meeting) reviewed efforts to enhance the productivity of pharmacists in that sector of practice. The expanded use of technicians in all settings was discussed. Noting that the issue will require a multifaceted approach and that it will not be corrected overnight, the JCPP organizations indicated they will participate in the federal study of the pharmacist workforce that has been mandated by Congress. 

NACDS, the American Pharmaceutical Association, and the National Community Pharmacists Association reported on legislation they are writing for a Medicare outpatient prescription benefit that would operate through federal block grants to the states. The bill is said to be consistent with a previous agreement by JCPP organizations that they will support a Medicare drug benefit only if pharmacist patient-care services are covered to ensure appropriate medication use by seniors. 

ASHP was represented by President Bruce E. Scott, M.S., FASHP; President-elect Max (Mick) L. Hunt, Jr., M.S., M.B.A.; and Chief Executive Officer Henri R. Manasse, Jr., Ph.D., Sc.D.