UM regents OK 6-year-degree for pharmacists

October 31, 1992|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,Staff Writer

The Board of Regents of the University of Maryland system dealt a blow to the state's chain drug stores yesterday as it voted to require an extra year of study for an entry-level pharmacy degree.

The vote on the controversial proposal to stop the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Pharmacy from awarding five-year bachelor of science (B.S.) degrees in pharmacy was 8-4, with 1 abstention and three regents absent.

The decision gave the pharmacy school the green light to push forward next fall with its plan to award only the six-year doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree.

The move would not affect the requirements for certification as a pharmacist in Maryland, which requires only a B.S. degree.

The regents' vote, taken during a meeting at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, came after a determined campaign by the Maryland Association of Chain Drug Stores (MACDS) to scuttle the plan.

Members of the industry group -- including Giant, Safeway, Rite-Aid and Revco -- contend that a five-year program gives pharmacists all the background they need to practice the profession in a retail setting. They contend the six-year requirement would aggravate an already serious shortage of pharmacists and drive up health care costs.

Franklin Goldstein, the veteran lobbyist who represents the chain drugstores, said members of the group would meet next week to discuss whether to take their case to the General Assembly.

"We fought a good fight. We fought a fight that had to be fought," said Mr. Goldstein, an attorney with the Baltimore firm Semmes Bowen & Semmes. He said that getting the votes of four regents was "astounding," given the board's tendency to defer to the recommendations of the chancellor on academic matters.

Barry Scher, Giant Food's vice president of public affairs, expressed disappointment after the vote.

"It's unfortunate that during these very difficult economic times the university has seen fit to launch a new program that is going to be very expensive, and we don't feel that it will do anything to improve patient care, especially in view of the long-standing, rigid continuing education program for pharmacists," he said.

After the vote, David A. Knapp, dean of pharmacy at UMAB, extended an olive branch to the chain stores, saying one of the first things he would do next week is to invite them to participate in designing the six-year curriculum.

The dean, supported by the pharmacy school faculty and most of the professional organizations in the field, contends that while five years of education might be adequate now, additional training would be needed for the pharmacists of the future.

The school's graduates, Pharm.D. supporters say, will enter a rapidly changing profession that will have to deal with thousands of new medications, each with potential reactions with other drugs.

The decision would make Maryland the 15th of 75 pharmacy schools in the United States to go to a six-year-only program, which includes two years of undergraduate pre-pharmacy studies.

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