Independent pharmacists fight burnout and industry pressures as Rite Aid and CVS close stores

Chain pharmacists across the United States have been speaking out about understaffing, long hours, and unrealistic demands of their jobs as companies such as CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid try to stay profitable in a pinched industry. Like independent druggists, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores has said pricing and fees set by pharmacy benefit managers — the companies that handle prescription drug plans for health insurance — are to blame.

Similarly, American Pharmacists Association CEO Michael Hogue recently condemned these benefit managers for “breaking the backs of community pharmacies.” But Hogue also criticized employers that have stayed profitable by placing strict quotas on staff — prescriptions per hour or vaccines per day, or even time on the phone with patients.

At most big chains, “you’re going to spend your day like your hair is on fire,” said Czerw, who used to work at a CVS.

Independent pharmacists say they don’t want to create those kinds of work conditions. But they’re dealing with the same financial pressures as the larger companies and lack control over revenue from their main product, prescription drugs.