9 in 10 Americans live near a community pharmacy

07/28/2022

PITTSBURGH – Nearly 90% of the US population lives within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, but more than half of Americans have to travel more than a mile to reach a pharmacist. A new national analysis published online in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association before print verifies an oft-cited statistic that, until now, has not been supported by peer-reviewed evidence.

The study, led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, San Diego, is the first national analysis of driving distance to community pharmacies. The results provide a better understanding of accessibility to US pharmacies and the essential services they provide.

BerenbrokLucaspress“Community pharmacies are the gateway to the health system. They are often where people begin their health care journey and are a gateway to other health care services,” said first author Lucas Berenbrok, Pharm.D., associate professor of pharmacy and therapeutics at Pitt School of Pharmacy. “Our study shows that most Americans live close to community pharmacies and that community pharmacists can reach a large number of people. This means that pharmacies should play an important role in public health initiatives, such as vaccinations, testing and treatment for COVID-19. »

As community pharmacies move beyond their traditional drug dispensing role to offer comprehensive medication management, disease screening and chronic disease management, immunizations, over-the-counter hearing aidscontraception and more, pharmacists are becoming increasingly important health care providers, especially for rural residents who may have limited access to other health services.

Hernandez_InmaculadapressAccording to Berenbrok, the frequently quoted statistic that 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy had been difficult to verify. To examine whether the claim holds up, Berenbrok teamed up with senior author Inmaculada Hernandez, Pharm.D., Ph.D., associate professor of clinical pharmacy at University of San Diego. The researchers and their team mapped all 61,715 community pharmacies in the United States, including chains, regional franchises, independent pharmacies and government pharmacies. Next, they took a representative sample of 1% of the US population and mapped the driving distance from home addresses to the nearest pharmacy.

“We found that 88.9% of the population lived within 5 miles of a community pharmacy, so we were surprised and delighted to find that our analysis came very close to the famous statistic,” Berenbrok said.

These results suggest that the vast majority of Americans have access to pharmacies, but Berenbrok added that “not all 5 miles are created equal.”

“Driving distance is not a perfect predictor of pharmacy accessibility,” he explained. “If you have a reliable car and can take time off from work, then 8km might not be a problem. But the same distance might be a big deal for someone who doesn’t have a car or lives in an area without good public transport.

While 96.5% lived within 10 miles of a community pharmacy, only 48.1% of the population lived within 1 mile of such a pharmacy.

The authors also looked at the distribution of pharmacy types in the United States. In cities, 62.8% of pharmacies were chains, while in rural areas, 76.5% were franchises or independent pharmacies.

“Our study demonstrates that community pharmacies, especially those that are independent or franchised, play a major role in providing access to health care in rural areas,” Hernandez said.FigurePopulation5milesPharmacypress “These findings underscore the need for reform of the drug reimbursement system to ensure the financial viability of these family shops – which are more at risk of closing than large chains. This is crucial to ensure equitable access to health care in rural and underserved areas.

The analysis showed that 8.3% of counties in the United States had at least 50% of residents who lived more than 10 miles from a community pharmacy. These low-access counties were primarily in Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana.

Berenbrok and Hernandez hope their findings will guide efforts to improve the availability of pharmacy services in underserved areas. For example, public health planners could target pop-up COVID-19 or flu vaccination clinics for populations that have less access to community pharmacies.

Other researchers who contributed to the study were Shangbin Tang, BS, Nico Gabriel, MA, and Nimish Patel, Pharm.D., Ph.D., all from the University of California, San Diego; Jingchuan Guo, MD, Ph.D., of the University of Florida; Nasser Sharareh, Ph.D., of the University of Utah; and Sean Dickson, JD, MPH, West Health Policy Center.


PHOTO INFO: (click on images for high resolution versions)

Top photo:

CREDIT: University of Pittsburgh

CAPTION: Lucas Berenbrok, Pharm.D.

Middle photo:

CREDIT: University of Pittsburgh

CAPTION: Inmaculada Hernandez, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Bottom picture:

CREDIT: Berenbrok, L. et al. Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (2022)

CAPTION: Map of the United States showing the proportion of each county’s population that lives within 8 km of a community pharmacy.

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