Leaders at Kansas University's School of Pharmacy are touting a new study that shows every dollar invested in pharmacy education not only creates more pharmacists but also generates a huge return for the state economy.
A study at the University of Tennessee showed each dollar invested in that pharmacy school generated $27.90 for the Tennessee economy. KU Pharmacy Dean Ken Audus said similar results could be expected from KU.
"Shortages of pharmacists have a direct, negative impact on local economies," Audus said. He added that the 594 pharmacies in Kansas already employ 32,000 people and pay more than $258 million in state taxes.
The KU pharmacy school is asking the Legislature for $50 million in bonding authority and $1 million in planning funds to expand the school on the Lawrence campus and open a branch of the school in Wichita. If approved, the university would be able to enroll about 85 more pharmacy students between the two locations.
Those new pharmacists would be expected to employ a number of others, leading to more jobs for Kansas.
"These pharmacists themselves are helping drive the economy," he said.
So far, the House and Senate have taken opposite approaches on expansion of KU's pharmacy program.
The House approved $1 million in planning for expansion but put off consideration of the $50 million in bonds until later in April. The Senate has held off considering the $1 million in planning funds, but OK'd the bonding authority.
Both House and Senate budget leaders will negotiate the differences in the two chambers' bills.
Funding for pharmacy schools also can be augmented with national research funding. KU receives $11 million from the National Institutes of Health for pharmacy research, putting it fourth in the country.
"Research generates new discoveries. That brings people here to study and participate in research," Audus said. "It improves the quality of people's lives, and it is bringing money to our state. We keep getting more funding here for more research."
Will Lang, vice president of policy and advocacy at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, said the economic impact of pharmacists is well-documented. In addition to what Audus mentioned, Lang said pharmacists benefit other businesses as well.
"The U.S. Chamber of Commerce discussed recently how integrating pharmacists into the health management system improves the patients' outcomes and saves companies money," Lang said.
He said the need for new pharmacists can be attributed to four major factors: the aging of America, the increasing use of prescriptions by all ages, an increased desire to integrate medical care by all providers, and the decision 15 years ago to require all new pharmacists to have a doctoral degree.
"We've actually had an increase in the number of schools (of pharmacy) in the last decade, and we've also had the existing schools increase the number of students let into their programs," Lang said.
KU is the only pharmacy school in the state and accepts transfers from other colleges and universities across the state. Those students complete the last two years of their undergraduate and two additional years as graduate students in the pharmacy program.
KU's new pharmacy facility on the Lawrence campus would be located on West Campus, attached to the Simons Laboratories.