HADDAM, Conn. — A bill has been proposed in Connecticut that would allow pharmacists to prescribe birth control. The question becomes are there enough pharmacists to actually offer that service? In Connecticut, large chains like CVS and Walgreens have closed or reduced hours at several locations.
FOX61 found about 400 immediate job openings for pharmacists in Connecticut. There are currently about 6,000 pharmacists in Connecticut and about 600 pharmacies.
Whether there actually is a shortage depends on who you talk to. At locally owned and operated Nutmeg Pharmacy, their issue hasn’t been a lack of applicants but rather a lack of revenue to get them in the door.
“The cost of hiring people has gotten to be significantly more expensive,” said Gregory McKenna, the owner of Nutmeg Pharmacies.
McKenna says small pharmacies are being taken advantage of and losing money at the hands of insurance companies who often reimburse them for less than what it costs to offer a medication. “This year now is escalating to almost 35% of the prescriptions that I fill. I'm not even being paid cost for. They are allowed to do this and that puts a downward pressure on everyone,” explained McKenna.
McKenna suggests that a lack of pharmacists might be a false narrative industry giants created to increase profits. “Are they doing it for another reason? Are they doing it to try to increase their profitability by having more scripts done in less period of time and not keeping the customer in mind?” asked McKenna.
But the CEO of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association told FOX61 the industry is getting away from the 24 hour model. “Stores may not have the same hours they used to. A lot used to be open until 9 or 10, now they close at 7,” explained Nahan Tinker.
Meanwhile, the Dean of UConn’s School of Pharmacy told FOX61 enrollment is down due to multiple factors including COVID healthcare burnout, fewer high school graduates, more competition for the same talent pool, an expensive six year education and too much red tape in Connecticut. Many graduates are taking jobs in other states. “Pharmacists are one of the most underutilized resources out there,” said Dr. Philip Hritcko, the Dean of the UConn School of Pharmacy. “We need to update our regulations to allow pharmacists to have more of a significant role in the healthcare provided in our state.”
For example, pharmacists are trained in providing services like checking your vital signs, offering birth control, smoking cessation, childhood vaccinations and COVID testing and treatment. But Connecticut doesn’t allow some of that and what it does allow is only on a temporary basis. “Pharmacists are trained to do much more than they are actually generally regulatory wise and statutorily allowed to do,” said Tinker.
Connecticut also normally only allows two pharmacy technicians to work under every one pharmacist. The experts say this needs to be expanded to allow pharmacists to have more help. It would free them up to be better utilized to serve the needs of the community.
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