February 12, 2014
Independent Pharmacies Top Rated in New
Consumer Reports Survey

Yonkers, NY—Independent neighborhood pharmacies beat out the national chains and big box stores in a recent Consumer Reports magazine survey measuring customer satisfaction with drugstores.

The survey, based on about 54,000 pharmacy visits by subscribers, found that 94% were highly satisfied with their experiences at independent businesses. (Consumer Reports included in that group brands such as Medicine Shoppe and Health Mart, which are individually owned and operated but have a common parent company.)

The survey respondents reported that independents made fewer errors, offered more efficient service at the pharmacy counter, and were much more likely to have medications ready for pickup than other types of pharmacies, i.e., traditional chains and those in supermarkets or big box stores such as Costco, Walmart, or Target.

Readers who shopped at independent stores were twice as likely as chain-drugstore shoppers to describe their pharmacist as easy to talk to and able to give them a one-on-one consultation.

The Consumer Reports article suggested that likely is because their focus is almost completely on prescriptions, not ancillary sales. The magazine noted that independents get 93% of their sales from prescriptions, while chain pharmacies get just 65%, with the rest of their revenue coming from cosmetics, food, and other merchandise.

The report also pointed out, however, that trends are running against independent pharmacies.

“Independents had been in decline for decades, though their numbers have held steady in recent years at about 23,000 stores,” according to the article. “But rates for prescription-drug reimbursement from insurers continue to decline, which makes it tough for shops to stay in business.”

Consumer Reports also discussed the challenges independents are facing from pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) which, by offering their members incentives to use their mail-order pharmacies, exclude independents.

The biggest drawback to using an independent community pharmacy, according to the article, is the lack of online accessibility. Many of the businesses have a website with low functionality, if they have a website at all, the magazine stated.

Overall, Consumer Reports lamented that so few of the survey respondents, just 43%, reported talking to their pharmacists about dosing, interactions, or medical conditions with prescription medications. The percentage discussing OTC drugs with pharmacists, 26%, was even lower.

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