Friday, February 22, 2008

Drugstore chains rely on pharmacy technicians

From USA Today:
When Americans bring prescriptions to their neighborhood pharmacies, odds are the person in the white lab coat who greets them and enters the prescription in the computer is not a pharmacist. Neither, most likely, is the person who puts the pills in the medicine vial.

They're probably pharmacy technicians, in some cases teenagers with no more than high school diplomas. The nation's largest drugstore chains say technicians don't replace pharmacists. But the companies have come to rely on technicians because of regional shortages of pharmacists and steady increases in prescriptions.

Walgreens, the nation's largest drugstore chain by sales and profits, employs about 39,000 technicians, compared with more than 24,000 pharmacists. CVS, the largest retail chain in terms of store count, employs about 41,000 pharmacy technicians, more than double the 20,000 pharmacists who work for the firm.

Technicians do much of the administrative work pharmacists used to perform, such as prescription data entry, counting pills, filling vials and ringing registers. Depending on your point of view, that's good news, because it frees pharmacists to do more important clinical functions — or bad, because technicians sometimes make mistakes that pharmacists don't catch, and because pharmacists often have little time to help teach the technicians. ...more

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