Pharmacies need a fix
New graduates bombarded with lucrative offers
By Judy Lin
PITTSBURGH -- During a time of layoffs and frustrating job searches, Todd Markawski is starting his new career with an $80,000-a-year job and a $10,000 relocation bonus. He accepted the lucrative deal after turning down three other offers.
The graduating senior at Duquesne University, who will be working at a CVS pharmacy in Cleveland, is one of many pharmacy students across the country benefiting from a severe shortage of pharmacists.
Thanks to a record number of new drugs, aging baby boomers taking more medication and the proliferation of managed health care, colleges across the country can't seem to graduate pharmacy students quickly enough.
A study released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows the number of unfilled positions for drug store pharmacists climbed from 2,700 in 1998 to nearly 7,000 in 2000, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Pharmacists have also become much busier. In 1999, retail pharmacists filled 2.8 billion prescriptions, up 44 percent from 1992.
Lucinda Maine of the American Pharmaceutical Association said the shortage of pharmacists is affecting areas across the country.
"It's across all settings and it appears it will be long-standing," she said. "There's no quick remedy."
College officials say they're trying to meet the demand by offering accelerated courses and increasing class size. Meanwhile, pharmacies and hospitals are in a bidding war, offering bonuses and tuition reimbursement.
A graduate of the nation's 83 pharmacy schools can expect to make between $70,000 and $75,000, or as much as $90,000 in states like California, where the shortage is more severe, Maine said.
Gary Stoehr, associate dean at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Pharmacy, says six of his students were treated to a trip to Florida while interning at Walgreens.
University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy: www.pharmacy.pitt.edu/default.lasso
American Pharmaceutical Association: www.aphanet.org/