The largest drugstore chains in the United States, namely Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens, announced plans to close over 1,500 stores nationwide.
This decision is set to leave millions of Americans stranded in what is being termed as ‘pharmacy deserts,’ areas where access to essential healthcare and medication becomes increasingly difficult.
Rite Aid revealed plans to shut down 150 of its 2,100 locations across the country. This decision comes in the wake of the company filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month.
The pharmacy chain has been grappling with numerous lawsuits accusing them of overprescribing opioids and found it challenging to compete with other players in the market.
One thing that stuck out to me during my bike ride in North Philly last night was how much of a pharmacy desert neighborhoods are going to have if Rite Aid closes all its stores. CVS & Walgreens already left. https://t.co/WYG9V6BZK1
— James Gitto (@JGitto) October 19, 2023
CVS, another major player in the pharmaceutical retail industry, is set to close 900 of its stores by the end of 2024. This move is part of their online strategy and represents a 10% reduction in their total number of outlets.
The company has been struggling with rampant shoplifting, which significantly impacted its bottom line. In fact, it is estimated retail theft cost stores a staggering $86.6 billion in 2022 alone.
Walgreens, too, is not immune to these challenges. The company plans to shutter 150 stores by the summer of 2024. The reasons cited include reduced earnings due to a decrease in demand for COVID-19 vaccines and tests.
The company’s shares reached their lowest level in over 11 years in June, prompting executives to take drastic cost-cutting measures.
The closures are not just numbers on a balance sheet; they represent a significant impact on communities across the nation. Approximately one in four neighborhoods across the country are expected to become ‘pharmacy deserts.’
These are areas where residents find it difficult to obtain necessary medication due to the lack of nearby pharmacies.
CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid are closing stores across the U.S. Here’s how 'pharmacy deserts' can impact your health. Another “Desert”; grocery, banks, healthcare, big box stores, public schools, etc. This is especially acute in rural America. https://t.co/hM1eYLoTDL
— jsr72748 (@jsr72748) October 22, 2023
The closures are disproportionately affecting communities that need pharmacies the most. The elderly, the chronically ill, and those without reliable transportation will be hit hardest by these closures.
These vulnerable populations rely on local pharmacies not just for medication, but also for essential health services like blood pressure checks and flu shots.
Potential solutions to this growing problem include prescription delivery, mail order services, prescription drug lockers, telepharmacy, and physician dispensing. However, these alternatives require infrastructure, investment, and time to implement effectively.
The rise of ‘pharmacy deserts’ in America is a concerning trend that needs immediate attention. As major drugstore chains close their doors, millions of Americans are left without easy access to essential healthcare services.
It’s a stark reminder of the real-world consequences of crime, competition, and corporate decisions.