Independent pharmacies keep care at forefront

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2017 NCPA Digest highlights expanded clinical services

ORLANDO, Fla. — Despite pharmaceutical market changes pressuring their businesses, independent pharmacies remain a mainstay care destination for millions of Americans, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 2017 NCPA Digest.

NCPA said Monday that its annual benchmarking survey, sponsored by Cardinal Health Inc., finds that independent community pharmacies continue to broaden their scope of patient services while absorbing decreased reimbursements for filling prescriptions.

This year’s NCPA Digest, unveiled today at the 2017 NCPA Annual Convention in Orlando, Fla., estimated that independent pharmacies had a 36% share of the retail pharmacy market in 2016. NCPA pegs the number of independents at 22,041, down a half-percent from 22,160 a year earlier.

Prescription count for independent pharmacies totaled 59,746 in 2016, dipping 1.2% from 60,493 the year before. NCPA attributed the slight decline, in part, to 90-day refill requirements, patients being steered to PBM-owned mail order pharmacies and exclusionary pharmacy network arrangements.

Yet the 2017 NCPA Digest underscored the importance of independent pharmacies to U.S. communities: 81% of independent drug stores serve population areas of 50,000 or less.

What’s more, over 200,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) individuals are employed by these pharmacies, bolstering state and local economies and tax revenue, NCPA noted. Almost 69% of independents also donated to at least five local organizations in 2016.

“Independent community pharmacies remain indispensable for patients, especially in underserved communities,” NCPA chief executive officer B. Douglas Hoey said in a statement. “This occurs because of the quality of services, which are growing as pharmacists find new ways to drive better health outcomes for their patients, and through civic engagement in their communities.”

About 90% of community pharmacies are offering some type of medication adherence program, according to the NCPA Digest. More specifically in the area of clinical services, 86% of independents offer medication therapy management, 74% administer immunizations and 61% perform blood pressure monitoring. Also, 52% supply durable medical equipment.

“As the 2017 NCPA Digest indicates, in the evolving health care landscape, pharmacists will continue to offer more clinical services to serve their patients,” stated Steve Lawrence, senior vice president of retail independent sales at Cardinal Health. “We’ll see independent pharmacies leading the way in offering the services and care patients need to stay adherent to their medications and remain healthy.”

Community pharmacies, too, are giving patients a hand in affording their medications. In 2016, 84% of prescriptions dispensed by independent pharmacies were lower-cost generic drugs, up from 82% in the prior year.

Fifty-two percent of all prescriptions were covered by Medicare Part D and Medicaid. And independent pharmacies dispensed essential medications to patients despite below-cost reimbursements which, exacerbated by DIR fees in Part D, played a role in gross margins falling 5% over the past five years, according to the Digest.


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