The Value of Community Pharmacy

DECEMBER 01, 2008
Fred M. Eckel, RPh, MS

Mr. Eckel is professor and director of the Office of Practice Development and Education at the School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Who cares if your community pharmacy closes? Sure, your employees will care if they lose their jobs. A few patients who are inconvenienced may care, but would there be a community outcry? As more and more patients and other health providers see drug products as just another commodity, most at first blush probably would not. The new National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) tag line, "pharmacies— the face of neighborhood health care," perhaps says it best, however. The loss of your community pharmacy will impact the entire community, even if at first few realize it. Let's hope we can get out the message, so that people will realize your value before you are gone. The 2008-2009 Chain Pharmacy Industry Profile (Alexandria, VA: National Association of Chain Drug Stores; 2008) helps make the case of the many contributions made by community pharmacy.

First, "Pharmacies contribute to overall community health, which includes the well-being of patients, economic vitality, and good jobs." Traditional drugstores, supermarkets, and mass merchants, as well as suppliers of products sold in the pharmacy and front-end departments, contribute valuably to each of these attributes.

Second, NACDS reports that "the total economic impact of retail stores with pharmacies reaches well beyond their $827 billion in annual sales. In fact, retail stores with pharmacies have a total annual economic impact of $2.42 trillion, based on 2007 data. That is the equivalent of approximately 17% of the gross domestic product. Every $1 spent in these stores creates a ripple effect of $2.93 throughout other segments of the economy?public policy—such as reimbursement models for government programs that reimburse pharmacies at less than their cost for some drugs—can jeopardize the ability of pharmacies to perform their vital role in health care delivery as well as their ability to help drive the economy."

We can certainly expect national organizations to advocate for us, but each of us needs to convey the value that our community pharmacy contributes to our local area. Patients have to know you to understand your value. You put the face on pharmacy.