Nationwide pharmacist shortage impacting Pittsburgh area, some pharmacy chains cutting hours

PITTSBURGH — A nationwide shortage of pharmacists is plaguing drug store chains, forcing some to cut hours, and we’re seeing the impact in the Pittsburgh area.

National pharmacy chains CVS and Walmart announced reduced pharmacy hours at most locations starting in March.

Industry experts said it’s due to a nationwide shortage of pharmacists and staff.

“There has been a decrease in pharmacy student applications nationwide,” said Dr. Monica Skomo, the associate dean for Academic Affairs and Administration for the School of Pharmacy at Duquesne.

Skomo noted class sizes have dropped over the last few years, even with multiple program offerings including online and accelerated six-year pharmacy degrees for high school graduates.

“Typically we would see anywhere between 150 and 175 [per class], and now we’re down to maybe 125 or so,” said Skomo.

According to Chris Antypas, the president of Asti’s South Hills Pharmacy, pharmacist burnout and turnover is much more common in large chains due to strict quotas required every day.

“People don’t want to work in those settings, where they have little help to do the work that they need done, combined with pressures coming down from corporate that say, ‘You’ve got to hit all these metrics.’ It creates a lot of pain and frustration,” he said.

Antypas believes inflation plays a part in chain pharmacies scaling back hours as well.

“We don’t get to charge more for the medicines we dispense. So, while our costs are increasing to operate our business, our income is not going up,” Antypas explained. “A chain has to operate that business profitably. They only way for them to do it is to have as light of a staff as they can possibly afford to accomplish that.”

That pressure, Antypas said, is encouraging more and more pharmacists to seek out opportunities at smaller, independent drug stores, like Asti’s.

“We’ve had people come from those chain environments recently, looking, in some cases, they’re taking pay cuts to come into this environment, because money alone can’t compensate for the mental strains,” said Antypas.

11 News reached out to Giant Eagle, who said they are not currently seeing the need to scale back their pharmacy hours.

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