Pharmacy techs are 'like offensive linemen' with shortages

Hospital pharmacy leaders are working on drug supply mitigation strategies every day, but they might be underutilizing their pharmacy technicians when it comes to spotting new shortages.

Scouting a new or upcoming shortage can be difficult for multiple reasons, including communication silos among hospitals and drug shortage updates not appearing until Friday evenings, pharmacy leaders told Becker's

"Typically, we find out about shortages on Friday at 5 o'clock in the evening when everyone goes home," Nilesh Desai, chief pharmacy officer of Louisville, Ky.-based Baptist Health, said. "On Friday, when everyone's gone, how do you pull things together?"

Mr. Desai said he sometimes won't find out about shortages until five days later, and by then "we're already late to the party."

Elevating pharmacy technicians' roles, titles and wages could help reduce this late arrival. Among pharmacy techs with advanced roles in health systems, more than 90 percent of them work in supply chain and inventory management, according to William Schimmel, executive director and CEO of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.

Pharmacy buyers and pharmacy technicians who order drugs are receiving the early warnings of an impending shortage — but they have to be invested in and trained to spot these signs, according to Mr. Schimmel and Ryan Pepper, assistant vice president of pharmacy supply chain for New Orleans-based Ochsner Health.

"Pharmacy techs and buyers are kind of like offensive linemen," Mr. Pepper said. "People only know who they are when the drugs don't come in. When those drugs come in every day, nobody's really mentioning them. They're doing an amazing job."

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