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Report: Independent Community Pharmacies Vital to Medication Access

Though declining in number, they’re particularly important in underserved areas

Independent community pharmacies are a critical prescription drug access point for patients—particularly in underserved areas, according to the 2016 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health and released at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Annual Convention. The NCPA Digest also documents how independent community pharmacies promote medication adherence, encourage use of lower-cost generic drugs, and support local community organizations.

"Independent community pharmacies continue to be a trusted source for prescription medication and expert counseling, according to the newest NCPA Digest," said NCPA CEO B. Douglas Hoey, RPh, MBA.

According to Steve Lawrence, Senior Vice President of Retail Independent Sales at Cardinal Health, nearly 70% of all community pharmacy owners donated to at least five local organizations in 2015. In addition to filling prescriptions, 81% of pharmacists offer medication therapy management; 67% provide immunizations; 61% furnish durable medical goods; and 57% perform blood-pressure monitoring.

"As we continue to move toward value-based care, pharmacists become an increasingly important extension of patients' wellness," said Lawrence. "And health care payers are looking to reduce the cost of care, evaluate sites of care, and measure health outcomes. The relationship the pharmacist has with the patient and caregiver becomes increasingly important."

Hoey added: "While independent community pharmacies remain a significant part of the retail pharmacy marketplace, both decreasing prescription volume and declining prescription drug reimbursement are warning signs to pharmacy owners. To weather these and other trends, community pharmacy owners should consider any and all options to diversify their revenue while continuing to focus on evaluating the economics of third-party reimbursements. To help, NCPA has identified a range of options and featured them online."

Highlights from the NCPA Digest covering the 2015 independent community pharmacy marketplace include:

  • There are an estimated 22,160 independent community pharmacies, including single-store pharmacies, family-run regional chain pharmacies, and individually owned and operated franchisees. In the previous year there were 22,478.
  • Eighty-two percent of independent community pharmacies serve population areas of 50,000 or less.
  • More than 250,000 individuals are employed on a full- or part-time basis by these pharmacies, bolstering state and local economies and tax revenue.
  • Prescription volume decreased from 61,568 prescriptions annually to 60,493, likely due in part to 90-day refill requirements, economically driven use of PBM-owned mail-order pharmacies, or exclusionary pharmacy network arrangements.
  • Generic drugs comprised 82% of all prescriptions dispensed, and 95% of the time, community pharmacists' generic product recommendations are accepted by doctors. Such pharmacist–physician consultations occurred on average 9.7 times each day.

Source: NCPA; October 18, 2016.

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