A Pharmacist Shortage Has Caused CVS, Walgreens And Walmart To Cut Pharmacy Hours—Here’s What We Know


Major drugstore chains have announced they will be reducing hours in March following labor shortages.

Key Facts

CVS Health, one of the largest drugstore chains, is expecting to cut hours at two-thirds of its 9,000 locations by March, and Walmart has also announced it plans to shorten pharmacy hours from 9 p.m. to 7 p.m. at most of its 4,600 stores in March, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.

Walgreens (which includes the chain Duane Reade), had previously announced it was reducing hours due to labor shortages, USA Today reported.

Between the three, they operate close to 24,000 pharmacies across the country.

Not only are chain stores experiencing a shortage, but two-thirds of community pharmacies are also dealing with a labor shortage and struggling to fill open positions, according to a survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Employment growth for pharmacists is projected to grow only 2%, much slower than other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also reports the demand for pharmacists has risen as they expand their roles beyond filling prescriptions.

Shortages have led to highly stressful job environments for pharmacists, according to a report by the National Pharmacists Workforce Study, with problems ranging from work-life balance issues and heavy workloads contributing to burnout.

According to the study, pharmacists reporting high workload environments came from chain (91%) and mass merchandiser (88%) pharmacy settings.

Also contributing to the problem is wage growth for pharmacists, which fell 5% last year after adjusting for inflation, reported the New York Times.

Key Background

Following the previous pharmacist shortage—in 2000, according to a report to Congress by the Health Resources and Services ministration—new schools for pharmaceutical studies opened up at a rapid rate, and by 2010 the supply of pharmacists outpaced the demand, leading to a petition from pharmacists to stop accreditation until 2030, according to a report by the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education. Still, U.S. data shows despite employment growth, there are 13,600 projected job openings for pharmacists each year, though those numbers come from other pharmacists leaving the industry and older ones retiring.

Where Are The Pharmacists

Independent pharmacies responding to a survey say shortages are leading to higher payroll costs and longer wait times for patients looking to fill their prescriptions. Data also shows jobs at community and chain pharmacies decreasing as more people fill their prescriptions online or by mail. Some chains, such as Walgreens, are looking toward automated robots to fill prescriptions as it deals with shortages of pharmacists and cut their workload by 25% and save the company $1 billion, reports The Journal. Another study also found that younger pharmacists are more restless in their positions and are more likely to look for other job opportunities.

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