The imbalance -- some say shortage -- is chiefly geographical in that the problem is greatest in rural counties, researchers conclude.
"By examining the relative growth of the population between 1991 and 2000 -- up 19 percent -- the number of retail prescriptions dispensed per capita, which is up 52 percent and the number of retail pharmacists per 10,000 population, which is down 3 percent, it is clear that the supply of retail pharmacists has not kept pace with the population's increased demand for prescription drugs," said Erin Fraher, assistant director of the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC and study leader.
"During that time, the average pharmacist's workload increased 57 percent," Fraher said. "That translates into the average pharmacist filling one prescription every five minutes in the year 2000, compared with one every eight minutes in 1991."
Data in the center's new report, "The Pharmacist Workforce in North Carolina," came from numerous sources including the Sheps Center, the N. C. pharmacist licensure board, literature and Internet searches, interviews, and information supplied by the UNC and Campbell University pharmacy schools. Sheps staff undertook the study at the request of the UNC Board of Governors and Office of the President.
Almost a quarter of North Carolina's counties saw their age 65-and-older population increase by 22 percent or more over the past decade, Fraher said. That aging population has increased the demand for pharmaceuticals beyond what would be expected from simple population growt
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill