Missouri to probe pharmacists' working conditions after hundreds of complaints

Missouri's board of pharmacy is forming a task force to investigate working conditions at pharmacies across the state after hundreds of pharmacists have alleged they've been overworked, pressured to meet metrics and don't have time to fill prescriptions safely, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported July 3. 

Some pharmacists told the board they're unable to take a break or go to the restroom during their shifts. Ron Fitzwater, CEO of the Missouri Pharmacy Association, told the Post-Dispatch: "I've heard pharmacists say that they don't drink anything before they go on shift because they're afraid they may not get a bathroom break. That's not even healthy, much less a good business practice."

The pharmacy board said it would appoint the task force this month, and that it will investigate pharmacists' working conditions, including staffing, prescription volume and rest breaks. 

"While the board recognizes business needs, patient safety should not be jeopardized for company profits," the board stated in April.

Of 963 pharmacists surveyed in Missouri in 2019, 60% said they agreed: "I feel pressured or intimidated to meet standards or metrics that may interfere with safe patient care at my practice site," the Post-Dispatch reported.

Fifty-two percent said they didn't have adequate time to do their job safely and effectively. A 2019 study by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy found 71 percent of U.S. pharmacists rated their workload as "high" or "excessively high." 

Kimberly Grinston, executive director of the pharmacy board, told the Post-Dispatch that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed more demands on pharmacists, including administering COVID-19 vaccinations. There also have been more staff absences because of quarantine or illness, she said.

Some states have passed laws requiring breaks for pharmacists or mandating staffing ratios of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, but Missouri doesn't have any such laws, the Post-Dispatch reported. 

Two of the nation's largest retail pharmacy chains, CVS and Walgreens, both told the Post-Dispatch that they are committed to patient care.

CVS stated that it looks forward to "working cooperatively with the Board of Pharmacy in our common goal of providing safe and high-quality pharmacy services to Missouri patients."

Walgreens said it is "committed to ensuring that the entire pharmacy team has the support and resources necessary to continue to provide the best care to our patients."

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