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Despite increasingly aggressive recruiting efforts, the pharmacy staffing shortage continues to leave the nation?s drug chains short-staffed. A new employment survey conducted by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation found nearly 5500 vacant pharmacy positions as of January 2003 in chain drugstores alone?virtually the same number of vacancies identified a year earlier.
The supply of pharmacists began to fall short of demand in the 1990s after US colleges of pharmacy added a year to the undergraduate study requirement for pharmacists. At the same time, new federal rules required pharmacists to offer to counsel patients?a duty that increased the pharmacy workload.
The NACDS predicts that the shortage may grow more severe in the years ahead as the average pharmacist?s workload mounts. By 2006, US retail pharmacies are expected to fill 4 billion prescriptions?up from 3 billion in 2001.
?In addition to dispensing more medication than ever before, pharmacists are counseling an ever-growing number of patients, particularly older patients, on proper medication use,? NACDS officials said. ?As the US population ages and prescription use continues to surge, the need for pharmacists? services will only increase.? To address the deepening pharmacist shortage, the NACDS is urging Congress to authorize funding for a program of educational loan repayments for pharmacy students and prospective pharmacy school faculty members.