A profession in danger: Stakeholders’ perspectives on supporting the pharmacy profession in Lebanon
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Background: Lebanon boosts one of the highest pharmacists to population ratios globally (20.3/10,000). Yet, workforce analysis elicited serious concerns with the distribution, practice environments and regulation of Lebanese pharmacists. Recent workforce data shows that the profession has been majorly destabilized with hundreds of pharmacists closing their pharmacies or losing their employment. Proper planning for the future of the pharmacy profession in Lebanon necessitates a deeper understanding of the current challenges and the necessary policy and practice recommendations. The aim of this study is to examine stakeholders’ perspectives on the current pharmacist workforce challenges and the necessary measures to support the profession. Methods: Research team carried out a series of semi-structured interviews with twenty-one key stakeholders within the pharmacy profession in Lebanon. We categorized stakeholders according to their experience as policy makers, practitioners, academicians, and media experts. The interview guide included questions about workforce trends, labor market challenges and recommendations for improvement. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed thematically. Results: Four major themes emerged from this study: the oversupply of pharmacists in Lebanon, the demand supply imbalance, poor regulation of the pharmacy practice, and the difficult practice environment. There was a consensus among interviewees that the oversupply of pharmacists is due to the poor workforce planning and weak regulatory framework, combined with the easy integration of foreign-trained pharmacists into the labor market. The lack of coordination between the educational and practice sectors is further widening the demand supply gap. Interviewees further revealed that the regulatory policies on pharmacy practice were outdated and/or weakly enforced which increases the risk of unethical practices and erodes the image of pharmacists in the society. With respect to the practice environment, there is an ongoing struggle by Lebanese pharmacists to maintain profitability and exercise their full scope of practice. Conclusion: The poor pharmacy workforce planning and regulation is significantly weakening the pharmacy profession in Lebanon. A concerted effort between the various stakeholders is necessary to enhance workforce planning, regulate supply, optimize the integration of pharmacists into work sectors of need, and improve the financial and professional wellbeing of pharmacists in Lebanon.