Magazine article Drug Topics

How the R.Ph. Shortage Can Be Fixed

Magazine article Drug Topics

How the R.Ph. Shortage Can Be Fixed

Article excerpt

The numerous media reports in the past year citing a shortage of pharmacists in North Carolina caused staff at the state board of pharmacy to thoroughly examine the situation. Analyzing information from the years 1992 through 1998 produced some surprises involving drug advertising, health plans, and pharmacies.

The state population during this time rose more than 10%, from 6,832,503 to 7,547,090, while the national population went up in excess of 9%, according to census estimates. At the same time, the data organization IMS Health reported that the number of prescriptions filled in North Carolina reflected a national trend by increasing 52%, from 52 million to almost 79 million. Some, but not all, of this rise could certainly be attributed to the aging of our population. You may recall a big surge in advertising of Rx drugs directly to the public during this time, and there is no doubt this has caused a large part of this increase in Rx volume.

While our population grew 10% and prescriptions increased over 50%, the number of pharmacists licensed in the state went from 7,040 to 8,695, an increase of 23%. But these pharmacists, for one reason or another, chose to stay away from retail pharmacy. As a percentage of total pharmacists, the number in retail pharmacy actually decreased by 6% over this sevenyear period. Every other category of pharmacists remained stable or increased. What could have caused this apparent contradiction?

The two most common complaints I hear from phar macists is their difficulties with health plans and getting blamed for rising Rx prices when they have no control over either event. Examples include the drug clorazepate. Consumers who had paid $15 for a prescription were jolted when a refill jumped to $80. The drug Dibenzyline also recently increased from $60 to over $500 in one day. But R.Ph.s have handled these complaints for decades, while the more recent and aggravating issue is the turmoil generated by managed care.

Arguments between patients and clerical personnel are common when the health plan doesn't want to pay for what the doctor prescribed. And these conflicts had to rise dramatically when third-party prescriptions more than tripled, from 16% of the total in 1992 to 55% of the total in 1998. Pharmacists often find themselves in the middle of a dispute between consumers and their health plans over Rx benefits. This can include extreme cases where the pharmacist has to tell the consumer that his health plan has cancelled his coverage. It's easy for patients to blame the messenger when he is the one who tells them, "Your health benefit is cancelled, and that will be $160 for this migraine prescription. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.