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Survey: Pharmacy pay rates rising, but gains slow in some areas

BY Jim Frederick

NEW YORK —The ongoing and seemingly intractable squeeze in available pharmacy staff continues to put pharmacists at a premium in the labor market, driving up pay for pharmacy professionals, according to the 2007 Pharmacy Compensation Survey from Mercer. However, pharmacy pay levels rose at a slower pace last year for some professionals, the consulting and research firm found.

In 2007, the national average pay for a retail staff pharmacist rose 4.3 percent to $102,800, including base salary and annual bonus, Mercer reported. However, that marks a slight levelling off from the rise in 2006, when average pay increased 5.3 percent.

“The positions of pharmacy team manager and pharmacy technician are also experiencing pay rising at a slower rate,” the firm added.

Median pay hikes are accelerating, however, for some pharmacy management and clinical staff. Regional pharmacy operations managers earned median total cash compensation of $130,400 last year, according to Mercer, compared with $122,100 in 2006. That amounted to an increase of 6.8 percent, more than twice the pay increase of 3.1 percent in 2005.

“Similarly, clinical pharmacists saw pay raises increase from 3.9 percent in 2006 to 6.3 percent in 2007,” the report noted.

“The shortage of talent, growing number of prescriptions to fill due to an aging population and complications resulting from Medicare Part D have increased the demand for pharmacists, in general,” said Eric Michael, principal with Mercer’s managed pharmacy benefit business. “In an effort to attract and retain good pharmacists, and remain competitive, pharmacy operators are continuing to raise salaries.”

Behind the steady rise in pay is an inescapable fact for pharmacy chains: the workload—and with it the need for staff pharmacists—is rising faster than the available talent pool coming out of the nation’s 80-plus pharmacy schools. “Between 2004 and 2010 the supply of all community pharmacists is expected to increase only 7.8 percent, versus an estimated 27 percent increase in the number of prescriptions dispensed…from 3.27 billion in 2003 to more than 4.1 billion in 2010,” noted the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

In 2004, NACDS reported, the nation’s chain and independent pharmacies employed 136,773 full- and part-time community pharmacists, with chains accounting for about 116,000 of that total. By 2010, that total will only rise to 147,378 practitioners, according to the NACDS projections.

That steady increase in demand has put newly minted pharmacy school graduates in the driver’s seat. What’s more, Mercer’s Michael noted, “Pharmacists today have many choices regarding where to work and the type of work they want to do. Not only have the number of outlets offering pharmacies increased, pharmacists have opportunities in wholesale businesses and with the government that may offer better hours and less or no prescriptions to fill.”

Despite the general uptick in pay, Mercer’s semi-annual survey found significant differences in pay from one region to another. Average pay for retail staff pharmacists was highest in such markets as San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., where the median total cash compensation was $112,700 to $112,800, Mercer found. In Omaha, Neb., on the other hand, total pay averaged $91,500, and in Little Rock, Ark., pay scales averaged $82,100.

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Report says Tesco looking at expansion in Chicago

BY Doug Desjardins

CHICAGO Tesco is looking to roll out Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the Chicago area, according to a report in the Chicago Sun Times.

The newspaper attributed the report to a “knowledgeable source” and said Tesco could offer the Chicago area something “unique because of its strong offering of prepared foods, packaged perishables and selection of produce, meat and bakery.”

Tesco has not commented on the report and has said it plans to expand on the West Coast in 2008, opening stores in California, Nevada and Arizona. The chain opened its first store in December and plans to have up to 50 Fresh & Stores open by the end of February.

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Lubin promoted to Walgreens vp and new second position

BY DSN STAFF

DEERFIELD, Ill. Walgreens today promoted Steven Lubin to divisional vice president and the new position of general manager of marketing for non-mainland operations. In his new role, Lubin will ensure the company’s marketing meets the needs of customers in Puerto Rico and Hawaii.

As general manager of marketing for Puerto Rico, Lubin spent the past three years living on the island. He is relocating back to the company’s Deerfield, Ill., headquarters for his new duties.

“Steve was a huge asset in Puerto Rico as we worked to better meet the unique needs of our island customers,” said Walgreens chairman and chief executive officer Jeffrey Rein. “He also was invaluable as we opened our first Hawaii store last year, quickly grasping what Hawaiian customers want in a drug store and working with a Walgreens team to buy from many local vendors. Steve’s a big part of our early, strong success in Honolulu.”

Lubin joined the company in 1970 as a stock clerk in Chicago while attending college. He managed several Chicago-area stores before moving into Walgreens’ purchasing department in 1980. He was promoted to a divisional merchandise manager in 1988 and to general manager of marketing for Puerto Rico in 2004. 

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