Personalized Medicine and The Pharmacist

Threats on the horizon for pharmacists

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Pharmacy students in British Columbia seem to be headed into murky waters over the course of the next few years as the role of the traditional pharmacist appears to be in jeopardy.  In what already is a saturated local market, UBC expanded its pharmacy student enrollment by around 50% for the 2011/2012 academic year.  From discussions with recent graduates and pharmacists in practice, the number of new full-time positions and part-time positions with benefits in the Greater Vancouver area has been declining for the last couple of years.  This is forcing young registered pharmacists (RPh’s) to move farther out due to the oversupply of pharmacists in the GVRD. Sechelt alone has seen 2-3 new young RPh’s in the last couple of years, which is unheard of historically. Visualizing this movement of RPh’s as a wave, how far will new graduates have to relocate to avoid the crest?

Compounding the issue of an oversupply of pharmacists is the recent Regulation of Pharmacy Technicians.  As the government and businesses strive to save money however possible, it makes sense as a business model to employ regulated technicians that are compensated much less than pharmacists for doing a large portion of the same work.  Although it cannot happen immediately due to a lack of supply, it is only a matter of time before the ratio of technicians to pharmacists increases. Furthermore, once the proposed Pharm.D program becomes the standard, those with the current, specialized Pharm.D and everybody with their Bachelors in Pharmacy are going to see their degree devalued.

Generally speaking, current trends are indicating an aging population with mass retirements looming.  However, with proposed changes to the federal pension plan to increase the retirement age to 67, and an unstable global economy that already saw the markets crash in 2008, causing many people close to retirement to lose much of their RRSP’s and investment income, will people be able or willing to retire fully from their jobs?  Will this equate to  fewer new positions opening up for new Pharmacy graduates?

It is a time for pharmacists to decide how to add value to their profession and how to redefine their profession. In the past, pharmacists were the key to making drugs and compounds.  Gradually, that role became transferred to large pharmaceutical companies with the invention of various machines.  At that point, the pharmacists took on the role of dispensing the medications accurately and providing patients with advice about prescription and nonprescription medications.  Now, the technicians are taking on the role of dispensary and pharmacists will be expanding their practices so that they can focus on using their valuable knowledge to maximize their contributions to their patients’ health. As the internet becomes a more and more important part of the average citizen’s lives, citizens are becoming more informed.  However, with the ease of accessing and distributing information, they may find it difficult to distinguish the facts from myths. That is where pharmacists can come in, as the educator as well as the assessor in patients’ medications.

So what opportunities does the future hold for pharmacists? As our society is aging and more medications are being developed or refined, the physicians’ burden becomes heavier.  Pharmacists may be looked upon as consultants to assist physicians monitor patients’ drug use and choose the most appropriate drug regimen for patients.  With developments in the area of pharmacogenomics, pharmacists will become invaluable in determining drug treatments that minimize adverse drug events while providing the best therapy possible. As times are changing, the pharmacist’s role has to change as well.  There are many possible paths that can be taken, so it is up to the pharmacists to decide on the direction of the future profession.

Written by calaminejoe

February 2nd, 2012 at 12:44 pm

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One Response to 'Threats on the horizon for pharmacists'

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  1. Have a good day! Web

    Lurlene Goodlin

    21 Oct 13 at 10:37 pm

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