NCPA Digest: Scope of Pharmacy Services Up, While Reimbursements Down

OCTOBER 16, 2017
Independent community pharmacies continue to strengthen and expand the scope of services they offer patients while absorbing lower reimbursements for dispensing prescription drugs, according to the results of Cardinal Health's 2017 NCPA Digest, which was unveiled this week at the National Community Pharmacists Association's Annual Convention in Orlando.

For 8 decades the annual NCPA Digest has served as a barometer for independent community pharmacy owners to quantifiably measure themselves as the pharmacy marketplace gets more competitive.

The NCPA Digest authors noted that independent community pharmacies offer a variety of services: 86% offer medication therapy management; 74% provide immunizations; 61% perform blood pressure monitoring; and 52% furnish durable medical goods. From a philanthropic standpoint, nearly 69% of all independent community pharmacy owners donated to at least 5 local organizations in 2016.

Highlights from the NCPA Digest include:
  • The estimated number of independent community pharmacies is 22,041, down slightly from last year's total of 22,160.
  • Community pharmacies represent 36% of the retail pharmacy marketplace.
  • Eighty-one percent of community pharmacies serve population areas of 50,000 or less.
  • More than 200,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) individuals are employed by these pharmacies, bolstering state and local economies and tax revenue.
  • Prescription volume decreased from 60,493 prescriptions annually in 2016 to 59,746 in 2017, likely due in part to 90-day refill requirements, patients being steered to PBM-owned mail order pharmacies, and exclusionary pharmacy network arrangements.
  • Generic drugs comprise 84 percent of all prescriptions dispensed.
  • Fifty-two percent of total prescriptions are covered by the Medicare Part D and Medicaid programs.
  • Ninety percent of community pharmacies are offering some type of medication adherence program.
  • Below-cost reimbursements, exacerbated by DIR fees in Medicare Part D, contribute to gross margins falling by 5% over the past 5 years.
According to Steve Lawrence, senior vice president of Retail Independent Sales at Cardinal Health, "As the 2017 NCPA Digest indicates, in the evolving health care landscape, pharmacists will continue to offer more clinical services to serve their patients. 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."

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