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Study: Consumers’ retail pharmacy preference clear

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Consumers continue to favor chain drug stores over other retail pharmacy outlets as the place to fill their prescriptions

A new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics shows that chain drug stores saw the largest gain among retail channels last year in terms of dispensed prescriptions, with supermarket pharmacies seeing a slight uptick. Drug chains, though, were the only retail sector to grow its share of prescriptions filled in 2010.

NEW YORK — Consumers continue to favor chain drug stores over other retail pharmacy outlets as the place to fill their prescriptions, a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics shows.

Consumers continue to favor chain drug stores over other retail pharmacy outlets as the place to fill their prescriptions, a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics shows.

Total spending on prescription drugs via retail channels rose 2% for 2010, compared with a 3% increase for institutional channels, according to the "Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2010" study released this week by the institute, a unit of IMS Health.

Prescriptions dispensed at retail edged up 1.2% year over year to 3.99 billion in 2010, compared with 3.20 billion in 2001, the report said. On a per capita basis, retail prescription volume has remained steady, increasing from 12.7 prescriptions dispensed per person in 2007 to 12.9 in 2010, compared with 11.2 in 2001.

"Of the 3.99 billion prescriptions filled through retail channels, chain drug stores increasingly were chosen by patients — reflecting both the convenience of these pharmacies and the availability of discounted generics," the IMS report stated. "In addition, chain drug stores continued to acquire independent stores and overall increased their market share by 0.5% last year."

In terms of dispensed prescriptions, chain drug stores saw the largest gain among retail channels in 2010 with over 2.17 billion prescriptions filled, up nearly 2.1% from 2009, according to the study. Also seeing increases in dispensed prescriptions were mail service (up 1.1% to 264.2 million), long-term care facilities (up 0.9% to 318.8 million) and food stores (up 0.5% to 490.3 million). Prescriptions filled at independent pharmacies dipped 0.8% last year to 748.3 million.

Drug chains were the only retail channel to grow its market share of dispensed prescriptions in 2010, data from the IMS report indicated.

Chain drug stores accounted for 54.4% of prescriptions filled last year, up from 53.9% in 2009. Meanwhile, share of dispensed prescriptions slipped to 18.7% from 19.1% for independent pharmacies and to 12.3% from 12.4% for food stores. Share of prescriptions filled held steady for mail service (6.6%) and long-term care facilities (8%) in 2010.

Overall national spending for prescription medications was up 2.3% to $307.4 billion in 2010, down from 5.1% growth in 2009. The IMS Institute noted that the total volume of prescription medicines consumed in 2010 rose at historically low levels, even though real per capita spending on prescriptions climbed $6 to $898 compared with a year ago. The 2.3% rise in prescription sales continued the trend of 5% or lower growth per year since 2007, according to the study.

"Last year, we saw the convergence of key dynamics leading to diminished growth in drug spending, which included the greater use of generics, loss of patent protection for major branded products, slower demand and less spending on new therapies," stated Michael Kleinrock, director of research development for the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. "Moreover, fewer patients visited physician offices and initiated new chronic therapy treatments last year, likely the result of the slower economy."

As destinations for two essential items — food and medication — supermarkets with pharmacies are well-positioned to ramp up prescription volume, as well as provide health services and health-related information that steer customers to the pharmacy department. Earlier this month at the Food Marketing Institute’s 2011 Health and Wellness Conference in Florida, Catalina Marketing Corp. identified ways for supermarket pharmacies to enhance patient care, particularly for people with chronic conditions.

In a session titled "Patient Perspectives, Purchase Patterns and Possibilities for Supermarkets," Sharon Glass, group vice president of health, beauty and wellness for Catalina, shared insights from a detailed patient survey involving over 2,600 supermarket shoppers. She noted that supermarkets have unique opportunities to improve pharmacy care by making stronger connections between the pharmacy and center store.

Citing Catalina research, Glass shed light on the patient’s perspective and behavior related to medication frequency, lifestyle modifications and the emotional impact of chronic conditions. For example, patients treating prevalent chronic conditions make up to 25 trips to the supermarket pharmacy during the year, and average pharmacy trips in 2010 were to treat hypertension, cholesterol and type-2 diabetes.

What’s more, routine doctor visits drive diagnosis for more than 60% of patients treating those three conditions, which are linked to dietary choices and present opportunities related to nutrition intervention in the supermarket setting, she pointed out. And patients indicated that they’re receptive to information about beneficial foods, over-the-counter medications and nutritional supplements that can help manage their condition.

In addition, 40% or more of those surveyed said they would likely use a range of screening services related to cholesterol, bone density, diabetes, food allergies and other conditions if offered through their supermarket pharmacy. Patients also are twice as likely to search the Internet for information on their condition than they are to consult their pharmacist. Less than 20% report their doctor or pharmacy helps them with meal planning or choosing foods/beverages to help manage their condition.


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