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Like nearly every industry negatively impacted by the ongoing pandemic, pharmacies are no exception. 

According to a recent report from The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) and the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations (NASPA), pharmacists and pharmacy personnel say they are being stretched thin and it could impact your health. 

According to a 2022 National Pharmacy Workplace Survey published in December, many pharmacy technicians and personnel working in the industry shared concern over stress leading to “occupational burnout.”

75% of respondents answered negatively to questions regarding them receiving enough time and personnel to safely perform or meet duties.

Because of the concern of burnout, both the APhA and the NASPA say they identified many factors that could lead to technicians making medication errors that could negatively impact consumers. 

These factors that could contribute to medication errors include: 

  • Increased demands, harassment, and bullying by patients/consumers experienced by pharmacy staff.
  • Concern due to insufficient and ill-trained staff.
  • Employer focus upon production results.
  • Constant interruptions or calls to insurance companies that disrupt the ability to evaluate appropriateness of treatments.
  • Addition of services with inadequate support for these services.

“Addressing pharmacy personnel harassment and bullying by patients/consumers is critical. Pharmacy personnel should not fear for their safety when providing patient care and serving their community’s health care needs,” said Rebecca Snead, RPh, executive vice president and CEO of NASPA. “Organizations need to immediately review their policies and procedures dealing with these situations, articulate support of their team members, and provide guidance to and training for pharmacy personnel and non-pharmacy management.”

The survey follows a Federal Reserve report in December that many parts of the country were hit by supply chain disruptions and labor shortages.

The FDA highlights that there are a number of reasons why drug shortages can occur, including manufacturing and quality problems, delays and discontinuations.

“Manufacturers provide FDA most drug shortage information, and the agency works closely with them to prevent or reduce the impact of shortages,” it said, also reporting that about 80% of active pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturers are located outside the U.S.

A separate survey published in November released by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) found that the majority of independent pharmacy owners and managers are struggling to fill staff positions and deal with supply chain disruptions, in addition to market pressures.

Sixty percent of respondents said they are dealing with supply chain disruptions and nearly 70% reported struggling to fill staff positions.

According to the group, 76% reported being concerned about possible tax increases on small businesses and 64% were also worried about inflation.

An American Society of Health-System Pharmacists report also warned last year that supply chain disruptions in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have the potential to negatively impact patient care. 

“Pharmacists have worked heroically throughout the pandemic so to have insurance middlemen push so many of these small business owners to the edge is troubling,” NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey said in an accompanying statement. “Policymakers in Congress, the Biden administration and in the states should keep this in mind. There are important policy changes they can make to lower drug prices for seniors and protect small businesses, like eliminating pharmacy DIR fees.”

“Between rollouts of COVID-19 vaccines for children, boosters, and seasonal flu shots – on top of their other existing patient care services – pharmacies are stretched very thin, while patients need them more than ever,” he said. “Independent pharmacies are the safety nets protecting their communities, and owners are working overtime, docking their own pay and doing everything they can to answer the call. Policymakers must repair the broken prescription drug payment model to better support pharmacy teams; successful pharmacies mean healthier, happier lives for patients.”

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