Alexandria, VA—The old-fashioned mom-and-pop drugstore has transformed into an advanced healthcare center providing cutting-edge services. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented both risks and opportunities for independent pharmacies, however, according to a recent survey by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA).

The 2020 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health, was released recently as part of the NCPA’s yearly convention. The  annual overview of independent community pharmacy found that the industry in 2019 represented 35% of all retail pharmacies in the United States and a $73.7 billion marketplace.

Yet, the digest also determined that the estimated number of independent community pharmacies continues to decline, dropping to 21,683 stores.

“Whether during times of crisis or calm, independent pharmacies are the safety nets protecting their communities, particularly those situated in rural and underserved areas,” said NCPA Chief Executive Officer B. Douglas Hoey, MBA. “The NCPA Digest report details the many indispensable services patients are able to access at their neighborhood pharmacies, and also some of the pressures they face that can make it difficult to keep their doors open.

Their presence continues to be critically important, according to the report, with 60% of rural ZIP codes and 52% of ZIP codes located in medically underserved areas having an independent community pharmacy that immunizes. In fact, 77% of community pharmacies serve population areas of 50,000 or fewer.

“The opportunities and challenges alike have been magnified by the coronavirus pandemic, but as we look to the development of vaccines and overcoming the virus, the importance of community pharmacy has never been clearer,” Hoey added. “Our goal of recognizing the value community pharmacists provide is coming into view, as our push to repair the broken pharmacy payment model continues full steam ahead. We’re fighting to accomplish this goal, with NCPA Digest data on hand and the knowledge that successful pharmacies mean healthier, happier lives for patients.”

The digest covering the 2019 independent community pharmacy marketplace also notes that 85% of independent community pharmacies identified their primary pharmacy operation as retail pharmacy, 8% identified as an apothecary and 7% identified as compounding, long-term care, or specialty.

Other findings from the annual review include:
• Between 2014 and 2019, the generic dispense rate increased from 80% to 86%.
• 2,621 pharmacies are participating in the CPESN USA national network of clinically integrated pharmacies, with more than 70 national or local network contracts having been signed.
• In 2019, average prescription volume was 57,414 per store, a drop of more than 1,000 prescriptions from 2018.
• Government programs pay for the majority of those, with 55% of total prescriptions covered by the Medicare Part D and Medicaid programs.

To help survive, independent pharmacies have taken on additional services, with the top four being influenza vaccines (22%), rapid strep testing (19%), cholesterol screening (12%), and hemoglobin A1C measurement (9%).

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