NCPA Digest: Business climate tougher for indies, but they still represent better bang for healthcare buck

 SAN DIEGO — The number of independents still is down from 2000, and margins of 2.9% represent the lowest in five years. However community pharmacists have proven resilient and helped reduce healthcare costs by dispensing a record high number of lower-cost generic drugs in 2011 and reported more frequent interaction with physicians to promote the appropriate use of generics, according to the 2012 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health.

“The 2012 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health, provides fresh evidence of how trusted community pharmacists are working with patients and their physicians to improve health outcomes while reducing costs,” stated NCPA CEO Douglas Hoey. “Independent community pharmacists shattered their previous record in frequency of dispensing lower-cost generic drugs by raising the bar even higher in 2011. In addition, these small business healthcare providers are counseling patients face-to-face on the proper use of and adherence to their prescription drug regimen — making a dent in the estimated $290 billion in healthcare costs attributed to nonadherence," he said. “Community pharmacists are working more frequently with physicians and continue to play a vital role in improving health outcomes while reducing costs.”

The NCPA Digest findings included: 

  • The number of total independent community pharmacies increased slightly from 23,064 to 23,106 but have still not recovered to 2000 levels, when they totaled 24,861;
  • The pretax net profit margin for the average independent community pharmacy fell to 2.9%, its lowest level in five years. Similarly, the number of independent pharmacies operating at a net financial loss increased slightly and continues to account for roughly 1-in-4 of these pharmacies;
  • As the last Digest also found, 92% of revenue was derived from the sale of prescription drugs;
  • Government-sponsored programs accounted for the largest share (49%) of their prescriptions;
  • Independent community pharmacies set a new high in generic drug utilization, increasing their generic dispensing rate to 76% from 72%;
  • Independent community pharmacists consulted with doctors about prescription drug therapy 7.9 times per day on average, marking a significant increase over prior years;
  • Half of these pharmacies now have a formal program to increase medication adherence, such as refill synchronization programs like Simplify My Meds;
  • To help remain competitive, independent community pharmacies found efficiencies to reduce their dispensing costs slightly, from $12.44 to $12.19 per prescription; and
  • The most common niche services offered by independents include same-day home delivery (82% of pharmacies offer it, most free of charge), compounding (66%), durable medical equipment (65%) and immunizations (60%). 

The Digest, a comprehensive survey of the current state of independent community pharmacies, was released Monday at NCPA’s 114th Annual Convention and Trade Exposition.

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