Amid a difficult economic environment, independent community pharmacies are growing their array of services to better meet patients' needs and lower their health care costs, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association's 2011 NCPA Digest.


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NCPA: Community pharmacies rein in health care costs

October 10th, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Amid a difficult economic environment, independent community pharmacies are growing their array of services to better meet patients' needs and lower their health care costs, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association's 2011 NCPA Digest.

Released Monday, the digest gives a snapshot of the independent pharmacy industry. Last year, amid declining reimbursement rates from public and private health plans, and escalating business costs, such as employee salaries, the number of independent pharmacies dipped from 23,117 to 23,064.

At the same time, independent pharmacies have helped patients rein in health expenses by reaching a new high in generic drug utilization last year, as their generic dispensing rate climbed to 72% from 69%, according to the digest. And 78% of independents offer disease state management services (such as immunizations, blood pressure monitoring and diabetes training) or medication therapy management (MTM) service.

On the pharmacy side, 90% independents are connected for electronic prescribing. Also, the number of independent pharmacies in areas of 20,000 people or less remained constant at 52%, filling a void in underserved areas.

"The 2011 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health, offers further proof of the adaptability and innovation of independent community pharmacists as they try to overcome significant challenges to keep serving patients," B. Douglas Hoey, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA, said in a statement. "By offering a variety of patient-friendly niches to complement the prescription drugs they dispense, independent community pharmacies continue to distinguish themselves from their competitors and win kudos from patients."

Other key findings in the 2011 NCPA Digest included the following:

• In 2010, about 92% of independent pharmacy revenue was derived from the sale of prescription drugs.
• Last year there was a small decline in the average amount of prescription drugs dispensed from 64,635 to 64,169, although the number of refills increased slightly.
• The average independent pharmacy's pretax net profit margin fell from 3.2% to 3%.
• The number of prescription drugs dispensed under Medicare Part D remained at 30%. And reflecting the tough economy, the number of Medicaid prescriptions dispensed rose from 14% to 16%.
• Home delivery (offered free by 76% of independents) and compounding (offered by 66% of independents) remained among the most common niche services offered by independent pharmacies.
• Seventy-two percent of independent pharmacies use point-of-sale technology.

"Community pharmacists continue to play a vital role in improving health outcomes while reducing costs," Hoey added. "First, the digest indicates that community pharmacists reached new highs in promoting the appropriate use of lower-cost generic drugs. Second, they are providing critical, face-to-face patient counseling on the proper use of medications and on combating diabetes and other common conditions. These clinically trained, small-business health care providers stand ready to reduce costs further, such as through coordinated care models, so long as the unsustainable rate of reimbursement cuts ceases."

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