PHARMACY…STATE OF THE UNION, 2018 January 1st 2018

It has been a few months since I wrote a blog, but today I felt compelled to summarize the many thoughts and comments I have received from followers over the past few months.  A kind of State of the Union.  And though we would like to launch 2018 on a happy note, unfortunately, the State of the pharmacy profession is not good and continues to deteriorate.

So who wants to hear this negative stuff?  Maybe no one, and maybe some.  I continue to believe that the biggest fatal error that many make towards solving a problem/challenge, is to deny there is even a problem.  Many pharmacists are great at denying what is happening all around them.

In many ways pharmacists cannot be totally blamed.

The pharmacy schools continue to churn out more & more graduates into a totally saturated market.  Do the deans and professors care that there are no jobs, and the ones that come up are 100 km. south of the Arctic Circle and pay as low as $30 per hour.  Teaching jobs in academia are secure and tenured; the vicissitudes of the marketplace are not academia’s problem.

Are the regulatory bodies concerned that annual registration fees and accreditation fees have remained the same or gone up at a time when pharmacist compensation has been reduced by 50%.  Not their problem.  Neither is the reality that these regulatory bodies are no longer in control of the profession.  Four or five major corporations (BPR) have a firm grip on the profession of pharmacy and these mega corps determine all terms of reference.  Regulatory bodies quake in their presence.

What were these regulatory bodies thinking when they allowed thousands of International Pharmacy Graduates (IPGs) to become licensed at a time that ever more pharmacy schools were opening?  Consequence?  Plunging compensation, unemployment, deteriorating working conditions.  Today, many of these IPGs have been forced to take on work at compensation rates barely above those of pharmacy technicians.   In fact, many of these IPGs, who were perfectly capable of practicing their profession in their homelands, today are working as pharmacy technicians at rates not much higher than minimum.

Well the picture is not so bleak for all parties.  Many have benefitted from plunging pharmacist compensation.  Here is a recent real life comment I received from an Ontario pharmacist which says it all:

Talk to the big pharma directors and executives and they’ll tell you “we just have to do things differently”, as a response to questions about the sinking ship called the pharmacy profession, the response is always given with an arrogant and defensive tone to the suggestion that we pharmacy pons have no faith in their business degrees.

“Doing things differently” means dumping 40+ experienced pharmacy managers in the span of 2 months (most of them top performers) and replacing those positions with inexperienced pharmacists, most of them IPGs

The big strategy to increase profitability today appears to be to terminate older experienced pharmacists, pay them out, and replace them with younger inexperienced malleable graduates, preferably IPGs who have few options, now that they have made the life altering decision to emigrate from their homelands.

The present pharmacy landscape has worked out so well (aka profitably) for some parties, one would wonder if this whole fiasco was not an accident, but a carefully planned business strategy from day one.

We refer to Pogo, once again, “we look in the mirror and we see the enemy, and behold it is us”.

Academia, regulatory bodies, pharmacy associations have all been spectators in a grim Greek tragedy…one which spared these institutions any blood on the floor.  Like snowmen that never melt, no matter what the temperature is, these institutions are well grounded and seem to endure in spite of all that swirls around them.

It can only be hoped that pharmacy students, who are tons more capable than some of us older folks, will refuse to play this losing game, and parlay their education into something meaningful in life for themselves, in spite of all these challenges.

Don’t get stuck in that 10’ by 20’ cubicle for the rest of your life.  Prison bars do not a prison make

“A man is the architect of his own destiny” could not be a more critical or more clarion call.