You would be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t take some sort of regular medication nowadays, and that number continues to grow. While this has created much demand for employees in the pharmaceutical field, the Pharmacy Times reports that the influx of students attending pharmacy schools hoping for job security may actually over-saturate the industry.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the projected drop in employment from 2014 to 2024 could be up to 3%.
Vacancy rates for pharmacist positions peaked in the early 2000s at about 8%. Four years later, that figure dropped to 4%.
By 2013, vacancy rates in hospitals and health facilities hit an all-time low of 2.1%.
Even with the steady drop in job vacancies, enrollment at pharmacy schools continued to rise.
Just from 2001 to 2009, rates of enrollment increased anywhere from 3.8% to 10.7% in related academic programs. This is in part due to the establishment of four new pharmacy schools, as well as the expansion of three others between 2005 and 2012.
The dwindling rates of open pharmacy positions has become even more of a concern as pharmaceutical giants have begun to consolidate their businesses.
For example, Walgreens has recently announced plans to purchase Rite Aid. This will likely mean that many Rite Aid pharmacists will lose the their jobs.
However, in all of this dismay, there may be hope yet for aspiring pharmacists thanks to the age of the internet.
Today, getting a prescription is no longer limited to physically picking them up at local pharmacies thanks to the surge in “on-demand” pharmacy services.
“It would seem that if a patient wants to get a prescription drug delivered, he can’t rely on the big box pharmacies,” said Mike Gross, VP of Sales and Marketing with Retail Management Solutions. “That’s not the case with local, independently-owned pharmacies, who have seen a nice increase in prescription revenue by offering home delivery. With mobile point-of-sale technology, local pharmacies can ring up a sale anywhere in the store, at curbside, and even at the customer’s front door.”
Gross added, “For example, if a local pharmacy doesn’t have a drive-thru, they can still service their patient by bringing the prescription to them and meeting them at curbside. Additionally, they can offer this same functionality on the road as they deliver prescriptions to patients homes. It’s been a real game changer for many local pharmacies.”
New York-based Zipdrug, one of the more prominent companies in the industry, is an online app that processes customers’ payments and sends messengers to pick up their prescriptions for a $10 delivery service fee.
TechCrunch reports that Zipdrug will soon have a national competitor with the better-funded upstart, PillPack.
This full-service pharmacy delivers pre-sorted packages of pills to customers every two weeks. While they have until now solely been operating on an online platform, after raising $50 million last year led by CRV, they will be building standalone store for consultations.
These on-demand services are a booming market, which is constantly expanding with more locations and jobs. In 2014, the sale of prescription drugs in the U.S. reportedly totaled a whopping $263 billion, a sizable portion of which was from these new and innovative companies.