Independent pharmacies on the rise

Sunday, April 30, 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The number of independent pharmacies--including those offering HME--increased in 2005, despite numerous challenges.

The volume of prescriptions dispensed and total prescription sales also increased, according to data released April 28 by the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) in the 2006 NCPA-Pfizer Digest.

Independent pharmacies include single-store independent pharmacies, independent chains, independent franchises, independent long-term care and home I.V. pharmacies, and independent pharmacist-owned supermarket pharmacies.

Early reports from the NCPA survey done following the first quarter of 2006 indicate that gross margins may have shrunk since Jan. 1. More than 60% of pharmacies said they have been forced to obtain outside financing to address the challenges brought on by Medicare Part D.

That said, independent pharmacies expanding into complementary areas like durable medical equipment continue to increase, according to NCPA. Of the approximately 105,000 to 110,000 HME suppliers recognized by CMS in 2004, pharmacy comprises about 49,728 or 46%, while traditional DMEs numbered 22,907 or 21%.

According to NCPA's preliminary figures:

* 24,500: total number of independent pharmacies in 2005; up from 24,345 in 2004.

* 63,500: average number of prescriptions dispensed annually per pharmacy (204 per day); up from 59,432 annually (190 per day) in 2004.

* $3.98 million: average annual independent pharmacy sales; up from $3.58 million in 2004.

* $3.67 million: average annual independent prescription sales; up from $3.28 million in 2004.

In the statement, NCPA President James Rankin warned that these figures do not reflect recent changes brought about by Medicare Part D but said the data will aid in addressing the challenges of the new plan.

Data findings also showed that staffing increased between 2004 and 2005, and 32% of community pharmacists plan to hire a full- or part-time pharmacist within a year.