Shopping local is always a topic that is near and dear to a community pharmacy’s heart. We are part of the community we serve; we raise our kids here, we support the local economy, and we care about the people we serve, our neighbors. But we also know that there is a world of options at the click of a mouse or a tap of a finger. It’s true for clothes shopping, it’s true for food selections, and – more and more – it’s true for your medications.
So why choose to visit a local independent pharmacy over a chain pharmacy, a mail order option, or even an online retailer? Because choosing the right pharmacy for you and your family is as important as choosing the right doctor, and you should trust your health to someone who gets to know you.
Why is picking a pharmacy so important?
Pharmacists play a crucial role in helping you on your path to better health, and research shows that the average person sees their pharmacist 7 to 10 times more often than they see their doctor. It is important to find a pharmacy that can fulfill all your healthcare needs. Using multiple pharmacies to fill different prescriptions can mean that no one pharmacy knows everything that you are needing. This may lead to negative drug interactions or side effects because the pharmacy team doesn’t have the full picture.
Finding the right pharmacy for you does not need to be a long or difficult process. A good place to start is by asking yourself some basic questions:
• Does your pharmacist take the time to talk with you about your medications and answer your questions?
• Does your pharmacy team offer a variety of health and wellness services such as immunizations, diabetes management, asthma control, or other health-related offerings?
• Does the pharmacy team seem genuinely interested in you and your family’s health
• Does your pharmacy offer recommendations on over-the-counter products and inform you which ones NOT to take with your prescription?
Why should I choose an independent pharmacy?
We like the convenience of one-click orders and home delivery, so it’s tempting to do the same for prescriptions as well. But not all convenient pharmacy services are created equal.
Choose an option that does more than just fill a prescription — choose a pharmacy that gets to know you. Independent pharmacies have been providing more than prescriptions for years if not decades. In addition to filling prescriptions, pharmacists are consulted to:
• provide medication reviews and counseling
• educate on a number of health conditions
• monitor health goals and offer wellness solutions
• communicate needed refills — and also communicate
when they may not be needed anymore
• administer immunizations, including flu and COVID-19
The list of services offered at a local independent pharmacy is continually growing and evolving to best serve our communities. Pharmacists work closely with local prescribers to ensure our patients have all the information and guidance needed to live a long and healthy life. Take advantage of the numerous ways your independent pharmacy can help. The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) conducted a census of community pharmacists in the United States, and they reported that in 2021: ¹
• 88% consider themselves full-line pharmacies
• 92% provide wound care
• 91% provide medication synchronization
• 77% offer compliance packaging
• 87% administer flu shots
• 70% offer delivery
It is not always about the fastest option or the most convenient one. Your health and that of your family is too important to settle for just convenience. When you choose an independent pharmacy, you will experience more than fast and easy.
Why should I pick an independent instead of mail order?
The convenience of getting your medications delivered in the mail may seem like a perk, but there are some significant risks associated with it. Your prescription could be lost or never arrive. You could the wrong amount – or the wrong drug entirely. According to the 2021 NCPA Digest, ¹
• 60% of community pharmacists reported that patients had mail order medication left outside rather than being delivered to the patient directly. Medications can lose their effectiveness when left in too hot or too cold of temperatures.
• 44% reported patients getting the wrong amount of a drug.
• 26% said patients received the wrong medicine.
• 25% reported patients’ medication going to the wrong address.
• 98% have had patients that received the delivery late or never received their
medication at all.
An article from Consumer Action for a Strong Economy (CAS) states, “While mailing a prescription may sound routine, most patients forced to wait for these services are those with complex or life-threatening conditions such as cancer. Delaying these treatments can have serious repercussions for these patients’ health and potentially lessens their outlook.” ² Before opting in to receiving your medications via mail order, compare the perceived convenience to the benefits of working with a local pharmacy.
One-on-one medication counseling
When using mail-order services, there is no way of knowing who is filling your prescription from month to month. It may not even be a pharmacist filling it. The lack of two-way communication puts you at higher risk because they may not be aware of changes in your health or any medication side affects you may be experiencing. Your pharmacist should help you feel comfortable asking questions about your health and can offer a faster response to your medication needs.
Mail order pharmacies are only able to provide the medications themselves. Local pharmacies offer a variety of complementary services to address your whole health. Providing recommendations on supplements, access to a pharmacist who can answer any questions or issues that may arise, and regular follow-ups to ensure you get the quality care you deserve.
When receiving your medications in the mail, you are accepting multiple risks that are completely out of your control. What happens if your doctor forgets to send in your prescription or refills for a few days? Now, not only do you not have your medications, but you will also have to wait days or maybe even weeks for them to arrive. Alternatively, mail order companies may have outdated information and automatically send you refills for medications you no longer need. Now you have a large supply of medications on-hand, increasing your risk of taking the wrong medication.
Why should I pick an independent instead of a chain pharmacy?
Often people list convenience as the number one reason they choose a chain over an independent pharmacy. Whether it is their hours of operation or a larger selection of products, the flexibility they offer is just about the only benefit they provide compared to independent pharmacies. According to a 2018 Consumer Reports’ survey, “Independent pharmacies earned high scores on such measures as courtesy, helpfulness, and speed of checkout and filling prescriptions, as well as pharmacists’ knowledge and accuracy. At the bottom, large national chain pharmacies.” ³
Let’s review some of the myths and misconceptions about independent pharmacies compared to chain pharmacies.
Myth: Independent pharmacies are more expensive.
According to that same Consumer Reports’ survey, independent pharmacies do better than big chain drugstores with regards to cost. Members who went to independent pharmacies were also more likely to report that the pharmacist suggested a lower-cost drug—21 percent—while only nine percent reported chain pharmacists offering them a lower-price option. Worse, national chains tended to have some of the highest out-of-pocket prices. While prices at independents fell in the middle, CR members said they found the lowest prices at Costco. CR secret shoppers found that some independent and grocery store pharmacies can offer even lower prices than Costco—you will just need to call around in your area and ask for their "cash" or retail price. ³
Myth: Independent pharmacies do not have what I need.
Overall, 21 percent of Consumer Reports members reported that a drug they needed was out of stock in the past year. As a group, independents were more likely than other types of pharmacies to fill the prescription later that same day or the next. Members who used an independent pharmacist were also more likely to say that the pharmacy went out of its way to fill prescriptions faster; 41 percent of people said that happened at independent pharmacies compared to just 20 percent at pharmacy chains. ³
Myth: Independent pharmacies do not accept my insurance.
Every year, independent pharmacies must combat the misconception that, because they are small, they do not accept most insurance. Larger insurance companies, many of which own pharmacies themselves, spend a lot of time and money each year telling patients that they are required to use certain pharmacies to fill their prescriptions. Oftentimes, you can use a local pharmacy, you just do not know it. Before taking the word of your insurance provider, call your local pharmacy to see what your copay is.
The bottom line is that locally owned, independent pharmacies have a lot to offer their communities. They are resilient, flexible, and 100% invested in their communities. Independent pharmacies, as a community, continue to lead the way in innovations and expertise to help patients manage the daily and long-term challenges of drug therapies and disease states. They provide high quality care, generate jobs and tax revenue for their community, and dedicate their lives to supporting local. As a member of the local independent pharmacy community, we are your trusted medication experts, and look forward to serving you and your family.
¹ 2021 NCPA Digest, sponsored by Cardinal Health