The Prospects of Independent Community Pharmacy

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Independent community pharmacy presents a wonderful career opportunity for both recent and older pharmacy graduates. Independent community pharmacies face difficult financial constraints, however, as their relative lack of capital, coupled with tighter margins make it challenging to remain solvent. The independent pharmacy must provide extraordinary customer service and distinguish themselves in the market. Pharmacy owners and other staff should engage the pharmacy in distinctive competencies in financial, clinical, and marketing aspects of the business.1  

Ullrich and Meuller examined independent community pharmacy closures in rural parts of the U.S. spanning the years 2003-2013.2There were 924 stores (12.1%) that had closed; however, the rate of closure had slowed considerably from 2010-2013. This might indicate that a tipping point had been reached, coupled with an increase in the planning, business savvy, and determination of owners willing to brave the market. It might also indicate an influx of younger pharmacists who want to experience the hard work, yet exhilaration that can come from having a stake in ownership. At the same time, Nattinger et al found that in 2014, there were over 2.7 million people living in 663 rural communities served by a sole, independently owned pharmacy.3 Many of these persons live below the Federal Poverty Level; moreover, for many of these patients, if that pharmacy were to close, they would have to travel well over 10 miles to get to the next closest pharmacy.

There are pharmacies excelling in suburban and urban environments, as well, with many specializing in compounding, delivery service, veterinary medicine, and other. All of these trends suggest that while the financial atmosphere presents challenges, independent pharmacy closures have subsided and remain a critically important component of medication goods and services delivery to many patients. Opportunities in this area abound.

Additional information about Applications in Independent Community Pharmacy can be found in Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If you or your institution subscribes to AccessPharmacy, use or create your MyAccess Profile to sign-in to Pharmacy Management: Essentials for All Practice Settings, 4e. If your institution does not provide access, ask your medical librarian about subscribing.

1McGee JE, Love LG, Festervand TA. Competitive advantage and the independent retail pharmacy: The role of distinctive competencies. J Pharmaceutical Market Manage. 2000;13:31-46.

2Ullrich F, Mueller KJ. Update: Independently owned pharmacy closures in rural America, 2003-2013. Rural Policy Brief. 2014;(2014 7):1-4.

3Nattinger M, Ullrich F, Mueller KJ. Characteristics of rural communities with a sole, independently owned pharmacy. Rural Policy Brief. 2015; (2015 6):1-4.

Shane Desselle

Professor of Social and Behavioral Pharmacy, Touro University California


Go to the profile of Shane Desselle
about 3 years ago

Do you aim to practice in independent community pharmacy practice? Why or why not?