Where Is Independent Pharmacy Headed?

Several recent studies, blogs and articles have raised a question in my mind about how secure independant pharmacy practice is.

My initial pharmacy career was as a hospital pharmacist. Of course that was more than 50 years ago. A theme that I heard from many fellow pharmacists then was that I should be both grateful for and interested in preserving independent pharmacy. The primary reason given then was that the opportunity for a pharmacist to open a pharmacy and make a good income was the primary reason that hospital pharmacists made a good salary. That idea has continued to resonate with me till today.

Perhaps hospital pharmacists have become invaluable on their own and that ensures a good salary. It is also true that it is not easy to open a new pharmacy and making a good living is not guaranteed. But having access to a local community pharmacist, if that pharmacist is part of a virtual health team, is in a patient's best interest.

In many areas, it is an independent pharmacy that makes the pharmacist care available to that community. In many cases those same individuals are part of the community structure, supporting sports teams and other communities events.

Today I hear too many pharmacists who do not think we need strong independent pharmacies. Am I wrong in my perspective or are they? The question that I ask is do we have to see them gone before we recognize the many contributions made by independent pharmacies? Would we be able to bring them back once they go?

In the September 2016 "The Pharmacist Activist" Dr. Daniel A. Hussar asked this question about independent pharmacists: "Can we keep them?" He answered his question with a "we MUST," and then offered 10 recommendations of what the profession can do to keep them. He closed his editorial with "we must move forward in a strong and urgent manner to protect and promote independent pharmacists as if the future of the profession depends on it. BECAUSE IT DOES, AND WE MUST KEEP THEM!"

The recently-released 2016 NCPA Digest: A Roadmap for Independent Community Pharmacies, noted "there was a net reduction in the number of independent pharmacies. Potentially related to that the number of prescriptions filled at these pharmacies also declined."

I accept that we should let the market place work and if a particular sector doesn't adapt we should let them go. My concern is that the independent pharmacist is a hidden gem that makes many contributions that are under appreciated or even recognized. If we let them go, it maybe to late too get them back when we realize what was lost.