1 in 3 neighborhoods in large US cities are pharmacy deserts, study finds

One in 3 neighborhoods in the country's 30 largest cities lack convenient access to a pharmacy, an issue much more prevalent among Black and Latinx communities, according to a study published May 3 in Health Affairs

Researchers looked at data from 2007-2015 for U.S. cities with populations of 500,000 or more. They found that in 2015, neighborhoods where the majority of residents were white had 1.15 pharmacies per census area, whereas majority-Black neighborhoods had 0.85 pharmacies, and majority-Latinx neighborhoods had 0.97 pharmacies.

The study found that nearly 15 million people were living in pharmacy deserts, 8.3 million of them Black or Latinx.

Cities with the most disparities among neighborhoods included Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and Milwaukee. The worst disparity was in Chicago, where 1 percent of majority-white neighborhoods were a pharmacy desert, compared to 33 percent of majority-Black neighborhoods in the city's South Side.

"Increasing Medicaid and Medicare pharmacy reimbursement rates for prescription medications might encourage pharmacies to open in areas of need," Jenny Guadamuz, PhD, the study's lead author, said  in a news release. "To ensure existing pharmacies don’t close, policymakers need to make sure that stores serving Black and Latino areas are not excluded from pharmacy networks."

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