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January 31: Pharmacy Closures Affect Grocery Chains

Posted on in Industry Updates by Amplicare Team

Plus, the latest healthcare and pharmacy news to know this week

The Story

Across the country, regional grocery store chains are closing or selling their pharmacies. These closures are part of a larger national trend that has seen pharmacies, from independents to chains, shut their doors in recent years. 

Why It Matters

Supermarkets and grocery chains introduced pharmacies in their stories as an additional touchpoint to reach shoppers. However, between 2016 and 2017, the number of grocery pharmacies declined from 9,344 to 9,026. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, some of the closed pharmacies have cited low prescription rates and profitability as major contributors. But there are other factors at play that make it difficult to stay afloat amid increased competition. Reimbursement rates tend to be lower, for one, but many also don’t typically provide the extra health services other pharmacies offer. Additionally, they don’t have the advantage of being connected to medical networks or insurers in the same way some of their competitors are. 

That said, grocery pharmacies are not the only ones affected by closures. A study published last year estimates that one in eight U.S. pharmacies closed down between 2009 and 2015, mostly independents in low-income neighborhoods. Last year also saw major chains closing hundreds of pharmacy locations. Faced with increased competition on multiple fronts, the industry seems to be heading in one of two directions. On one hand are those offering expanded services in order to make pharmacies a healthcare destination and increase the role the pharmacist plays in patient care. On the other are the PillPaks and mail-order pharmacies that offer convenience-based drug distribution services. This could make it difficult for the pharmacies that find themselves in the middle. 

Other important healthcare news to know:

1. The CDC is monitoring 110 people across 26 states for the coronavirus. CNBC

2. A Kentucky Senator has filed a bill to exclude PBMs from the state Medicaid plan. Courier Journal.

3. Illinois caps monthly insulin costs at $100. AP.

4. An EHR vendor has been fined $145 million for opioid kickback scheme. EHR Intelligence.

5. Life expectancy in the U.S. is up for the first time in four years, but only by a month. AP.

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