JUNE 01, 2006

Despite the economic pressures facing community pharmacy, the nation's independent pharmacists entered 2006 in a strong competitive position, according to the latest NCPA-Pfizer Digest.

The total number of US independent pharmacies rose to 24,500 at the end of 2005, up from 24,345 the year before, the new research shows. Prescription volume at independent pharmacies also experienced gains, climbing to an average of 204 per day, up from 190 in 2004.

Total sales per store rose from $3.58 million to $3.98 million last year, and staffing levels at independent pharmacies also are on the rise, according to the report. Nearly one third of all the community pharmacists surveyed in 2005 expressed plans to hire at least one full-or part-time pharmacist during the coming year.

In contrast with their robust performance last year, however, the nation's independent pharmacies may be heading for a downturn in 2006, officials at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) warned.

"It's important to keep in mind that these figures are from 2005 and do not reflect any of the enormous changes that we are seeing as a result of Medicare Part D," said NCPA President James Rankin, PD.