My last blog addressed the issue of the apparent oversupply of pharmacists and the recent Workopolis Report indicating that pharmacists can look forward to generally full employment for the foreseeable future. My point was/is that there is a big difference between having a full time job and being fully employed.
Too many pharmacists are engaged doing menial tasks which draw very little from the many years of university education required to graduate and then to become licensed to practice…especially those employed in grocery stores and big box merchandisers. This is because it is the pharmacist’s license more than the pharmacist herself which is important to the non pharmacist owner. The pharmacy license allows the merchant to sell a whole bunch of stuff which is restricted to sale in pharmacies only and to create the food drug combo platform. These drug store type products are supported by billions in advertising dollars which create a powerful pull effect, even though most of the products have little or no efficacy. It’s all about creating customer traffic and exposing consumers to more and more merchandise. One of the main reasons that Loblaw purchased Shoppers Drug Mart (now known as SHOBLAWS) is to expose the Weston Group of companies to more markets in urban centres and smaller niche markets.
In a normal supply demand marketplace, it is demand that drives supply. The supply/demand curve remains relatively symmetrical fluctuating a little but maintaining its own balance.
The unfortunate situation we witness today with pharmacy is that this curve is greatly distorted by artificial demand; demand which is created by Big Retail in its endless pursuit of greater sales volumes. This is how we get 10 pharmacies in one intersection, all within a few hundred yards of each other.
Clearly there never was a demand for that level of pharmaceutical services at this one intersection. Most of the pharmacists within this geographical area are not practicing pharmacy, but they are employed as ‘pharmacists’.
A perfect in vivo example of this artificial demand phenomenon was the recent entry of TARGET Stores into the Canadian marketplace. This successful US based company entered the Canadian market like an invading army, opening 122 stores in the space of about two years. In the space of this short period of time Target created a corporate demand for over 200 pharmacists…pretty close to half an entire pharmacy graduating class. Target is now struggling, having lost over a billion dollars in its first full year of operation. There is some speculation by analysts (though denied) that if things don’t improve Target may eventually retreat out of Canada. What will happen to those 200 pharmacists if they spill back out into the general pharmacist population?
These types of huge swings in artificial demand distort the supply side of the curve and this has a major impact on remuneration and working conditions, as we woefully witness today.
The further reality is that the universities, the pharmacy regulatory bodies and the pharmacy associations all become quickly addicted to these high pharmacist numbers. All of these institutions thrive and profit from the bigger numbers and the revenues (tuition fees, annual licensing fees, and association fees) which these big numbers create.
Hence back to the title of this blog. There are no real good guys or bad guys in this story (well, maybe a couple of bad guys). Mostly there are a lot of incompetents whose self serving interests drive their motivations and actions.
Today’s cohort of pharmacy graduates is proving daily that they will not accept this paradigm. More and more of them are creating new value propositions and creating the pharmacy of tomorrow. These graduates are not afraid of the future; they are seizing it and bending it to their will. These graduates are clearly competent to practice as real pharmacists employed doing what they were educated to do…serve patient needs. As for all those box store pharmacists, isn’t it time you evaluated your life and your career? Is the 20% staff discount really worth it?