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Independent retail pharmacists in the US have been lobbying for legislation to protect them from what they see as unfair competition from the mail-order giants. Health insurance firms stipulate that their care-plan subscribers obtain repeat medication from nominated online suppliers, whose financial clout enables them to reduce the cost of prescription medicines, undercutting their competitors.
Independent pharmacists argue that this system is unfair, and that most patients prefer face-to-face contact with a pharmacist rather than internet help lines offered by mail order firms.
Recently a scheme known as medication therapy management has been introduced with the aim of optimising therapy for patient health, in a similar way to Britain’s medicines use review, and also reducing treatment costs for patients and their healthcare companies, an important consideration in the American system.
However, a recent article in US News and World Report magazine has placed pharmacy in third place in “The best jobs for 2012”. The result was based on the high earnings potential and a projected increase in pharmacy jobs over the next decade. Currently about 275,000 pharmacists work in the US, with 65 per cent in retail outlets, 22 per cent in hospital and the rest divided between mail order, internet, corporate and industrial posts. These numbers are forecast to increase by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2020, and with a median salary of $111,570, pharmacy appears an attractive proposition. The top 10 per cent earned over $138,000, with higher paid jobs tending to be in residential mental health or in rehabilitation facilities.
Despite this apparently rosy picture, a quick glance at US pharmacy message boards reveals familiar comments of long hours, understaffing and poor prospects. Perhaps the grass is not greener after all.