Expert: Another Pandemic Will Come Sooner Than the Last, Pharmacy’s Role Will Be Increasingly Pivotal


Lawrence H. Summers, former US Secretary of the Treasury, explains that he is optimistic regarding pharmacy’s increasing role in fighting future pandemics.

Although a century passed between the Spanish flu pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, it will not be a century before the next pandemic, explained Lawrence H. Summers, former US Secretary of the Treasury, during a session at the 2022 National Association of Chain Drug Stores Total Store Expo. With the increasing risk of pandemic disease and the potential for further mutation of the COVID-19 virus, Summers noted that the public health challenges facing the country are increasingly issues that can be treated in the pharmacy.

“They are issues that can be treated with pharmaceuticals, and they are issues that can be treated with screening and preventive health care practices,” Summers said.

Additionally, Summers explained that outside of potential pandemics down the road, he is also concerned regarding the future of our country’s public health, as current data now demonstrate that the United States is no longer a global leader in this area.

“Of the things that worry me about the United States, one of the greatest is that our life expectancy now lags substantially behind the life expectancy of many European and Asian countries, and our life expectancy has declined in the last several years, and had declined even before COVID-19,” Summers said. “I would suggest to you that if we can cooperate effectively with the nation’s pharmacies, we can see real progress on those problems.”

Summers also noted that he understands that the nation’s pharmacists are willing and ready to take on this role and be a critical part of making the United States a leader in public health again. However, despite his optimism regarding pharmacy’s role in future public health crises, he cautioned that public health issues are not the only concern on the horizon facing the country. Specifically, he explained the risks regarding inflation and a potential recession are quite real.

“I wish more than anything that I could be highly optimistic, but that is unfortunately not my view,” Summers said. “By the fall of last year, the vacancy rate, or the number of jobs that need to be filled, was a third higher than it had ever been since World War II. So costs ran, supply chains got short, and we were a 9% inflation country. We are not going to stay a 9% inflation country, as some part of that inflation reflects things that are clearly temporary, like used car prices, or things that are probably temporary, like gasoline prices, which have come down a dollar.”

However, Summers explained that economic history teaches that soft landings are like George Bernard Shaw said of second marriages, a “triumph of hope over experience.”

“The prospect that we will successfully bring this economy down in a way that will not involve a recession is not inconceivable, but I think it is odds off. So, we will have to see what happens, but my expectation will be that we will suffer a recession sometime in the next 2 years,” Summer said. “I don’t think that recession has already started, I don’t think it’s an immediate prospect, but if we are going to contain inflation, I have to record that I think it is likely.”


Summers L, Nightengale B, Anderson SC. Business Program. Boston, MA: 2022 National Association of Chain Drug Stores Total Store Expo; August 28, 2022.

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