Do pharmacy technicians still know how to make medicine?

This is a secret profession, sometimes little known, but indispensable in pharmacies. More than 60,000 pharmacy technicians are employed. Their role is even more important as we face drug shortages in recent months. But the youngest graduates are no longer as well trained in the preparation of ointments and other capsules as before. And there’s good reason: Over the past two years, pharmacy technician training has focused more on delivery—that is, sales. A decision that was not taken unanimously.

Since the beginning of the academic year, the diploma for preparers has moved from the professional certificate at the bac level to the DEUST (diplomas of scientific and technical university studies) at the bac +2 level. This makes it easier for students to consider continuing their education. The course is entirely a two-year apprenticeship in a pharmacy. Originally delivered at apprentice training centers (CFA), this program now allows students to take certain courses at university. Students, who were previously subject to the national exam, are now evaluated with a partial exam every semester, just like at the university. Thesis is also required.

Pharmacists outsource production of treatments

This change, which brings pride to sales, also makes some pharmacists happy. “We have been wanting education to change for 20 years», explains Philippe Besset, president of the federation of community pharmacists. According to him, preppers are doing less prep than they used to, so they don’t need to train as much. “Her’pharmaceutical industry Who cares about this? Of the 20,800 existing pharmacies, only about a hundred dispense them regularly. Today, when you want to do this, you have to invest in a laboratory with strict quality control, which is beyond the reach of all pharmacies.» adds the pharmacist. For Nicole Pothier, training manager at the training center for pharmacy technicians (CFPP) in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, the change was more than necessary. “The criterion has not changed since 1997. Ten years later, pharmacies began to outsource preparations. It is no longer profitable for pharmacies to each make their own preparations“, he believes.

One of my colleagues is surprised that I don’t have more preparatory course hours. It’s a shame

Pritty, 20 years old, 2nd year pharmacy technician student

But other pharmacists regret that drug manufacturers are no longer sufficiently trained in drug production. Fabien Bruno heads the Delpech pharmacy, which distributes and also manufactures medicines, making it one of the largest subcontracted pharmacies in Paris. “I heard there is more preparation in advance. However, today young people are no longer adequately trained in this discipline and the rest is up to us.“, says.

Students also complain that they no longer receive as good an education as they used to. Only 40 of the 800 hours of courses taken in two years are devoted to preparation. Surprising, because the mortar and pestle are symbols of the profession. “One of my colleagues is surprised that I don’t have more class time for this. It’s a shame, because I’m in my second year and I still haven’t been able to practice preparation alongside him.», Pritty, 20, says he is in his final year of DEUST at CFPP in Paris. Pritty’s comrade Mohamed also shares this view. “Being a preparer today means either delivering or preparing. I want to do both on a daily basis as before. But it continues to be gratifying to see the course develop and deliver university degrees », shares the child.

Preparers hired in Romania

Bruno Maleine of the National Association of Pharmacists agrees with his colleague Philippe Besset that the diploma needs to be improved. However, he admits: “With Covid crisis and compounds are returning due to drug shortages» he analyzes. So which solution should we adopt? “For interested students, a professional bachelor’s degree specializing in preparation may be considered.» he applies. It’s a route being considered by the Paris CFPP, which hopes to open a “pharmacy licence” by the start of the 2024 school year.

Extending studies is a good idea to allow students to deepen their knowledge. “But we need these professionals in the job market as soon as possible. There is a real shortage of preparers. So much so that we have to bring it from Romania as well.», breathes Fabien Bruno.

Fortunately, the famine was brought under control very quickly. DEUST is now accessible from Parcoursup, which allows you to gain visibility. “We increased from 450 students to 750 students in the first year», reassures Philippe Plisson, director of the CFPP in Paris. For a 70% success rate. In July 2024, the first DEUST students will graduate. Time will tell whether their new skills will further satisfy pharmacists.

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