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Turf war

Tensions mount as states continue to allow pharmacists to test and provide vaccinations for infectious diseases.

Numbers don’t lie–they illuminate. For doctors and pharmacists, numbers paint a seemingly bleak picture of the future of our healthcare system.

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that physician demand is projected to grow faster than the supply, leading to a projected shortage of 13,500 to 86,000 in the next 10 years. The numbers for pharmacists are similarly alarming.

According to a 2023 report by the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, 13,323 new pharmacists graduated from 136 pharmacy schools reporting to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. This number was down from 14,223 the previous year. What’s more concerning, only 9,743 students were accepted through the Pharmacy College Application Service in 2023. The group called it an “unsettling statistic.”

These shortages come at a time when both professions are at odds over scope of practice. Pharmacists want to do more, and doctors object.

This month, our cover story looks at the rift between doctors and pharmacists and explores avenues for fostering greater collaboration between the two groups.

Tensions mount as more states enact legislation that would continue to allow pharmacists to test and provide vaccinations for COVID-19, as well as flu, strep throat and other ailments.

Naturally, doctors say pharmacists do not have the education and training necessary to assume the role of a physician. This ever present battle is heating up at a pivotal time, too.

Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last compared to six other industrialized countries. Things are only going to get worse.

According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, per capita costs for those 85 years old or older are almost twice as high as for those 65 to 84. “As a large portion of the American population lives well beyond retirement age, the total cost of providing healthcare will also grow,” the center said.

Now is not the time to dither about turf. Doctors and pharmacists need to find some common ground because the health of the nation depends on it.

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