OPhA Media release:


The Oklahoma Pharmacists Association (OPhA) unwaveringly supports our pharmacists and the work of pharmacy teams, as they seek overdue action to improve eroding corporate ran workplace conditions. We have heard our members’ concerns, and we reassure you of our commitment to helping you. Our profession rightfully demands action to keep ourselves and our patients safe, while not compromising public welfare by abandoning patients who rely on us. Serving patients and ensuring patient safety are core values to the profession of pharmacy.


In the Oath of a Pharmacist, our members vow to consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering as our primary concerns. At the same time, our members embrace and advocate for changes that improve patient care. Corporate pharmacy workforce issues have led to frustration and burnout. These issues have been building for some time, but they have become more acute with the stressors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Corporate workplace conditions have pushed many pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and other pharmacy team members to the brink of despair. Pharmacy burnout is a significant patient safety issue. It is impacting patients today with delayed prescription fulfillment, unacceptable waits for vaccines and testing, potential errors due to high volume, long hours and pressure to meet performance metrics.


Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are caregivers, and we must address the fundamental issues causing burnout and frustration. The public, decision-makers and regulators must be educated and recognize the seriousness of our pharmacy teams’ negative well-being and the need for both additional resources and realistic expectations to safely provide patient care services. Pharmacy employers across the healthcare system must have meaningful dialogue with their teams, resulting in realistic expectations that are supported by appropriate staffing levels and procedures. Corporate employers have an obligation to increase staffing in their pharmacies, in order to promote safety and access for patients and to improve well-being for their pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. In addition, the Board of Pharmacy, which is tasked with protecting public safety and public health, including timely access for patients to needed medications and services, must also examine current experiences and regulations contributing to this issue, and take appropriate action. To assist the profession, the Board of Pharmacy has provided an inadequate staffing report to their website. The Board of Pharmacy has also integrated staffing issues into their inspection reports in order to document non-compliance or unsafe conditions in the pharmacy that would impact the health and safety of the public. These are positive changes. 


A significant contributing factor that causes understaffing and unrealistic performance metrics is a misaligned payment system that rewards volume and not value. Pharmacists and pharmacies are primarily reimbursed for dispensing a product, not for addressing the clinical needs of the patient. The payment system for pharmacy services is fundamentally flawed. OPhA has long advocated for change in our healthcare system to assist in improving workplace conditions.


Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are intermediaries who have siphoned tremendous profits from the prescription drug system, leaving pharmacies to depend upon unrealistically high transaction volumes with minimally viable staffing to stay in business. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma has adopted legislation to hold PBMs accountable for their unregulated business practices across the healthcare system. OPhA will continue its work with state leadership to ensure that all Oklahoma laws impacting the practices of PBMs are upheld and enforced.


Pharmacy teams have been meeting a significant need within their communities during the pandemic, through the provision of acute and chronic medications and associated services, including testing, vaccination and treatments. These services are provided on top of a model that was stretched to its limit prior to COVID-19, due to the misaligned payment model.


OPhA will continue to promote resources available to support our members throughout these difficult times. One such resource is the Oklahoma Pharmacists Helping Pharmacists (OPHP) which is available to pharmacy professionals who need help dealing with stress, anxiety, sadness or depression as well as those who are at risk for chemical dependency or other impairment. They can be contacted at 1-800-260-7574 and their webpage can be found at: https://www.ophp.us.


Multiple factors have contributed to the situation we are in, and thus a multifaceted approach to a solution is needed—both in the short term and long term. OPhA calls on anyone who can impact the well-being of our pharmacy teams and the safe delivery of patient care, to address these issues now with their teams and others who can make a difference: corporate employers, the Board of Pharmacy and third-party payers. To sustain public access to pharmacy services, relief is needed now. OPhA stands with our pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in making the case for timely change.


About Oklahoma Pharmacists Association

Oklahoma Pharmacists Association (OPhA) is the professional association of pharmacists in Oklahoma. We are dedicated to advancing public health by promoting and furthering the professional interests of pharmacists, fostering collaborative partnerships of pharmacy professionals in all practice settings, creating strategic partnerships and entrepreneurial resource development, ensuring collaboration with Oklahoma’s colleges of pharmacy and supporting member development. For more information, visit www.opha.com.