The Value of Community Pharmacies
Across the country, pharmacies and pharmacists are going above and beyond to ensure high quality health care for patients and communities
Pharmacies are the primary provider of prescription medications Americans rely on. But it’s important to note the role of today’s pharmacies and pharmacists goes well beyond dispensing medications. Now offering numerous health products and services, pharmacies and pharmacists play a critical role in delivering quality health care to people of all income levels and at all stages of life. As highly accessible—and trusted—health providers, pharmacists enhance health and wellness through counseling, medication therapy management, immunizations and testing, and more.
The information that follows shows the many innovative ways pharmacies are helping local residents meet their health-care needs. Multiplied thousands of times over in communities throughout the country, pharmacies are playing a vital role in solving challenging public health problems.
Pharmacies provide a convenient, trusted source of prescription medications for patients in small and large communities across the country.
- Retail pharmacies fill more than 3.76 billion prescriptions each year, an average of one per month for every American[i].
- Staffed by more than 140,000 pharmacists, a network of more than 61,000 pharmacies in grocery stores, mass merchants, and chain drug stores provide prescription medications to Americans in communities large and small[ii].
- 93% of Americans live within 5 miles of a community retail pharmacy[iii].
- The sheer number and reach of America’s community pharmacies means the local pharmacist is often a patient’s most accessible health provider. With many pharmacies open extended hours, high quality health care professionals are always available to answer patients’ questions and provide counsel.
- Pharmacists are one of the most trusted professions in the U.S., ranking second in Gallup’s annual Honesty and Ethics survey[iv].
Pharmacies help improve patients’ health and general well being.
- Fresh food and wellness products – Today’s community pharmacies offer much more than prescription medications, including a wide variety of health and wellness products, groceries, and even fresh fruit and vegetables in some locations.
- Vaccinations – Many pharmacies offer vaccinations against seasonal flu, pneumonia, shingles and other potentially debilitating illnesses[v].
- Tests – Many pharmacies offer blood glucose and cholesterol tests to help patients determine whether they have a chronic illness such as diabetes or heart disease. Once diagnosed, ongoing testing is also important for day-to-day management of these diseases. Access to these tests is critically important considering that chronic illnesses affect 141 million Americans, cause 7 in 10 deaths, and account for 75% of all health spending[vi].
- Clinical health services – Large chain drugstores Walgreens and CVS offer wellness clinics staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. There, patients can receive annual physicals, immunizations, and convenient treatment for non-emergency conditions, such as colds and flu and minor injuries[vii].
- Improved prescription adherence – Pharmacists improve health outcomes by helping patients take their medications as prescribed. Through one-on-one counseling and tools such as automated reminders, pharmacists are helping solve the huge problem of prescription non-adherence, which costs up to $290 billion annually and contributes to 125,000 deaths. Sources: NEHI Research Brief titled Thinking Outside the Pillbox, August 2009[viii]; and
- Medication Therapy Management (MTM) – Pharmacies offer MTM programs for Medicare patients and others taking multiple medications. These personalized programs with one-on-one contact between pharmacists and patients enhance the effectiveness of a patient’s medications and reduce the risk that patients will suffer from drug interactions and harmful side effects. These programs promote prescription adherence, prevent adverse reactions, and save health-care dollars[ix].
Pharmacies add value by addressing complex public health problems.
Ensuring health-care access for the needy, reducing health-care costs, and fighting disease outbreaks are public health challenges facing all levels of government today. Pharmacies are a part of the solution to these complex health problems.
- Reduce prescription costs - Pharmacies are reducing the high cost of prescription drugs by filling 90-day, instead of 30-day, supplies of maintenance medications, encouraging greater use of less-expensive generic drugs, and creating prescription savings clubs for customers[x].
- Enhance health-care delivery in underserved areas – 55 million Americans, residing in both urban and rural areas, live in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA), where there are not enough doctors and other practitioners to meet health-care needs. Some of these underserved areas are home to large numbers of low-income, medically vulnerable people. In these areas, pharmacies fill some of the gaps by providing immunizations, testing and other health services[xi].
- Immunizations – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that vaccines prevent 14 million cases of and 33,000 deaths from disease each year. (PCAN LA Leave Behind) Pharmacists are supplying a growing number of these vaccines, and can be especially helpful in areas experiencing disease outbreaks[xii].
Pharmacies add value to communities.
Pharmacies are critical to the timely delivery of health-care and pharmacy services to all residents in a community. They are also an important source of jobs and revenue in the communities they serve. In fact, in 2010, community pharmacies employed more than 3.5 million people. They also support local charities and causes.
[ii] Source: NACDS Industry Profile 2011 – 2012, p. 5, 11
[iii] NACDS Industry Profile 2011 – 2012, p. 14
[vii] http://takecarehealth.com/what-we-treat.aspx; http://www.minuteclinic.com/.