Report finds pharmacists workforce growth slowing

Changes in the number of pharmacists and the annual rate of growth.
Source: Office for Healthcare Workforce Analysis and Planning
Changes in the number of pharmacists and the annual rate of growth. (Chart provided)

Staff Report
Published April 8, 2014

South Carolina’s workforce of pharmacists continues to grow, but annual rates of increases have been declining for several years, according to a new report titled The Pharmacist Workforce in South Carolina (.pdf).

The report was prepared by the Office for Healthcare Workforce Analysis and Planning, which is a partnership of the S.C. Area Health Education Consortium, the S.C. Budget and Control Board Office of Research and Statistics Health and Demographics Section, and the University of South Carolina College of Nursing Office of Healthcare Workforce Research for Nursing.

The report states that while the size of the pharmacist workforce grew by 13% from 2008 to 2012, annual rates of growth for the profession have been falling in both the number of licensed pharmacists and the number active in the South Carolina workforce.

Also, about 25% of the current pharmacist workforce is age 55 or older.

“Two new education programs have opened in the state in recent years, and their graduates will increase the number of new pharmacists entering the workforce each year. Whether these new graduates will be enough to offset the large number of pharmacists expected to retire in the next decade remains to be seen,” the report states.

The changing population demographics and the ways in which pharmacists are engaged within the health care system are expected to increase the demand for pharmacists nationally and in South Carolina in the future, the report states.

For example, prescription volume and the need for drug management services are much higher for senior citizens than any other age group. In South Carolina the population of people age 65 and older is increasingly rapidly — by more than 100% between 2010 and 2030.

In addition, pharmacists are beginning to play a key role in multidisciplinary health care teams where they perform comprehensive drug therapy reviews, resolve medication related problems, optimize complex drug treatment regimens, design treatment adherence programs and recommend cost-effective therapies.

How these conflicting dynamics of pharmacist supply and increasing demand will play out over the next decade in South Carolina is unknown, the report concludes.

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