The Independent Pharmacy Marketplace Remains Stable

By JC Scott, President and CEO, PCMA

In the past few years, some have been pushing the narrative that pharmacy benefit companies are driving independent pharmacies out of business. Their argument seems compelling, but is it true?

As we do every year, PCMA consulted the numbers from several sources.

We can once again state unequivocally: The independent pharmacy market is stable – across the country the number of independent pharmacies is up slightly. (Read a blog written by PCMA’s head of research, Amanda Frost, at PCMA’s Rx Corner, for a detailed look at the data).

And that’s a very good thing. A healthy pharmacy market is important for patient access to medications, and pharmacists are a trusted advisors for many patients.

We continue to offer information on the state of the independent pharmacy market in an effort to get past the din of misinformation and focus the collective energy of policymakers on ways all of the partners in the prescription drug supply chain can work together to lower prescription drug costs and improve patient outcomes.

For example, pharmacy benefit companies offer community pharmacies and chain drug stores the opportunity to be part of networks that offer affordable access to medications and provide a high-quality patient experience. This doesn’t put independent pharmacies out of business; instead, this important partnership allows patients to access drugs at more affordable costs.

PCMA recently released a new policy platform, “Unlocking an Affordable Future,” which lays out specific recommendations to promote greater competition [and] to support a more sustainable market to lower prescription drug costs for patients. In addition, the policy platform includes support for efforts to help pharmacists and other health care practitioners “practice at the top of their license” to optimize use of their clinical expertise and counseling abilities. This is another area of alignment within the entire pharmacy community because it is good for patients’ health outcomes and it lowers costs.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), the group that represents community and independent pharmacies, has also put out data showing that the number of independent pharmacies in the U.S. is stable. Late last year, the NCPA published in their annual 2022 Digest Report that the number of independent pharmacies increased in the last year, stating that the “independent pharmacy category was essentially flat,” increasing by 0.4%.” Data from the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) showed precisely the same pharmacy marketplace minor increase from the previous year. To provide context, the total number of independent pharmacies has increased by 7.5% over the last ten years and in the last five years, the number of stores has fluctuated marginally year-to-year, sometimes gaining and sometimes losing, but staying largely stable. Again, this is good for patients and can lead to lower costs through competitive market forces.

This market strength and stability allows pharmacy benefit companies more opportunities to partner with independent pharmacies to achieve our shared objectives of increasing access to affordable medications and helping patients stay on their prescribed medications. This is especially important for those located in rural and urban regions with fewer options for patients.

Patients come first, and we should all continue to focus on improving how we can partner to build a system that works for all patients.

PCMA’s The Independent Pharmacy Marketplace is Stable web page contains all the information you need on the current state of independent pharmacies, including our dataset methodology, and more information on the NCPDP.