NCPA teams with USC on groundbreaking pharmacy mapping project

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.  – A collaboration between the National Community Pharmacists Association and University of Southern California has resulted in a new interactive mapping tool that could promote health equity by identifying pharmacy shortage areas in the United States. It can also help policymakers see the consequences of unfair pharmacy benefit manager practices believed to contribute to pharmacy access issues.

The mapping tool shows nearly 1 in 4 neighborhoods nationwide are pharmacy shortage areas – areas that have no pharmacy.

“Millions of Americans may live within what appears to be a modest distance to a pharmacy, but they don’t have a car or access to public transportation,” said B. Douglas Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association. “That severely limits their access to pharmacies in the area.”

“Pharmacy access is critical not only to Americans who depend on them for lifesaving medications but also for the rollout of public health initiatives such as vaccinations, contraceptives and HIV prevention,” said Dima M. Qato, PharmD, MPH, PhD, USC Associate Professor of Pharmacy and Spatial Sciences and Senior Fellow with the USC Leonard D. Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics.

Qato, who holds the Hygeia Chair at USC, is a co-director for the USC-NCPA Pharmacy Access Initiative’s Pharmacy Shortage Area mapping project. Ronna Hauser, PharmD, senior vice president of policy and pharmacy affairs at NCPA, also serves as a co-director.

The tool’s interactive maps will generate real-time information for national, state, and local policy officials, health care academics, industry leaders, and others to identify communities lacking in pharmacy access at the neighborhood level. Better data on the proliferation of pharmacy deserts could help policymakers and industry leaders and, ultimately, underserved communities.

The mapping tool defines pharmacy shortage areas as neighborhoods in which the nearest pharmacy is more than 1 mile away for urban, 2 miles away for suburban or 10 miles away for rural neighborhoods. The distance is a half mile for low-income neighborhoods where most households don’t own a car. These defined areas are in line with recent published peer-reviewed research.

“Identifying pharmacy shortage areas using our mapping tool can serve as a resource for policymakers and public health officials interested in better identifying and addressing inequitable access to pharmacies and in promoting accountability for both the public and private sectors,” said Qato.


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