‘Big shortage of pharmacists’ in Israel as deficit grows

Approximately 7,000 licensed pharmacists in the country, but only an estimated 5,000 who are practicing

September 22, 2019 23:54
2 minute read.
‘Big shortage of pharmacists’ in Israel as deficit grows

David Papo, chairman of the Israel Pharmacists Association. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel has a shortage of some 600 pharmacists and the deficit is growing, according to David Papo, chairman of the Israel Pharmacists Association.

The association, together with the Health Ministry, will host the country’s first-ever Pharmacy Day on September 25 to help make Israelis aware of how pharmacists can help them and encourage potential pharmacists to consider the profession.

Papo said the day will include “some noise on social media,” educational posters hung on pharmacy walls and roll ups in front of pharmacy doors. Pharmacists will also wear promotional buttons.

He told The Jerusalem Post that there are approximately 7,000 licensed pharmacists in the country, but only an estimated 5,000 who are practicing. If 600 more pharmacists were certified tomorrow, “they would be hired in a day.”

“There is a big shortage and the Health Ministry is trying to come up with a solution,” Papo said. “Right now, we are seeing pharmacies within the national health funds close for a day or two a week because we don’t have pharmacists to occupy the counters.”

There are only two universities that offer faculties of pharmacy: the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“We need to enable pharmacists who learn abroad to get their licenses here in Israel more easily,” he recommended. “And getting their permits should be done in their languages, and not in Hebrew, so it is easier for them to pass.”

He suggested offering courses aimed at up-skilling nurses and other similarly trained medical professionals who might be interested in becoming pharmacists.

“Don’t consult Dr. Google or neighbors of family,” Papo advised. “We are here at your disposal at the pharmacy counter. Ask your pharmacist – he knows a lot.”

He explained that technology today allows pharmacists insight into all the medications prescribed to a patient within the health fund network and therefore, a pharmacist can help ensure that there will be no adverse reactions or complications between them.

In addition, he said that pharmacists nowadays “are focusing on the patient profile:  his lifestyle, nutrition and general well-being,” as well as which vitamins he is taking with any prescription medications.

While he said he cannot recommend home remedies, he has become a fan of the use of medical cannabis.

“If you had talked to me 15 years ago, I would have been totally against medical cannabis,” he told the Post. “But since then, I have been exposed to many more facts and in the last five years, I have changed my mind. Medicalization of cannabis is a great thing for the population and gives a lot of relief for many patients, especially those who would otherwise be taking addictive medicines like opioids. It is not a cure for cancer or other illnesses, but it can help reduce pain and improve well-being.”

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