Study: 88.9% of US Population Lives Within 5 Miles of a Community Pharmacy

Driving distance is not a predictor of accessibility for those who do not have a car or access to public transportation, investigators say.

Approximately 88.9% of the US population lives within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, according to investigators in a nationwide analysis published online in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

Previously, a commonly cited statistic was that approximately 90% of the US population lives within 5 miles of a community pharmacy. However, there has been little evidence to prove the claim.

The study, which was led by investigators from the University of California San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh, is the first nationwide analysis of driving distance to community pharmacies. The findings help provide evidence of accessibility to US drugstores and the services they provide.

“Our study shows that most Americans live close to community pharmacies and that community pharmacists can reach a lot of people. This means that pharmacies should be an important part of public health initiatives, like COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and treatment,” Lucas Berenbrok, PharmD, associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics in the Pitt School of Pharmacy, said in a statement.

Investigators mapped out 61,715 community pharmacies in the United States, which included chains, government pharmacies, independent pharmacies, and regional franchises.

They took a 1% representative sample of the US population and mapped the driving distance from home address to the nearest pharmacy.

“We found that 88.9% of the population lived within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, so we were surprised and excited to find that our analysis came very close to the famous statistic,” Berenbrok said.

The results suggest that a vast majority of Americans have access to pharmacies, though investigators said that 5 miles can look differently for each individual, adding that driving distance is not a predictor of pharmacy accessibility, because not everyone has a car or access to public transportation.

The findings showed that though 96.5% of individuals live within 10 miles of a community pharmacy, only approximately 48.1% live within 1 mile of a drugstore.

The investigators also looked at the type of pharmacies across the United States and found that in cities, approximately 62.8% were chains, but in rural areas, approximately 76.5% were franchises or independent pharmacies.

“Our study demonstrates that community pharmacies, particularly those that are independent or franchises, play a major role in providing access to health care in rural areas,” Inmaculada Hernandez, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of clinical pharmacy at UC San Diegom said in the statement. “These findings emphasize the need for reform of the drug reimbursement system to ensure the financial sustainability of these mom-and-pop shops, which are more at risk of closures than large chains.”

The results of the analysis also showed that 8.3% of counties in the United States had at least 50% of residents who lived more than 10 miles from a community pharmacy and were primarily in Alaska, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

The investigators hope that the findings can help improve availability of pharmacy services in underserved areas.

Reference

9 out of 10 Americans live close to community pharmacy. EurekAlert. News release. July 28, 2022. Accessed August 2, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/960126