90% of Americans live close to a pharmacy, analysis finds

Nearly 9 of every 10 Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, and about 50 percent of the population lives within 1 mile of one, according to a preprint analysis. 

The research was led by the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California San Diego with the aim to verify the long-held statistic, according to a July 28 press release from the University of Pittsburgh. 

According to the findings, 48.1 percent of Americans live within 1 mile of a pharmacy, 73.1 percent within 2 miles, 88.9 percent within 5 miles and 96.5 percent within 10 miles. 

One of the leading researchers involved in the analysis, Lucas Berenbrok, PharmD, a pharmacy professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said "not all 5 miles are created equal."

"Driving distance is not a perfect predictor of pharmacy accessibility," Dr. Berenbrok said in a statement. "If you have a reliable car and can take time off work, then 5 miles may not be a problem. But the same distance could be a big deal for someone without a car or who lives in an area without good public transport."

Other factors in the research were the type of pharmacy available and rural versus urban areas. Chains accounted for a majority, 62.8 percent, of available pharmacies in cities, while franchises and independent pharmacies held a larger majority, 76.5 percent, in rural communities. 

The analysis found a high concentration of counties with low access — defined by at least half of the county's residents living further than 10 miles from a pharmacy — in Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana. 

"These findings emphasize the need for reform of the drug reimbursement system to ensure the financial sustainability of these mom-and-pop shops — which are more at risk of closures than large chains," said Inmaculada Hernandez, PharmD, PhD, who also worked on the research. "This is crucial to ensure equitable access to health care in rural and underserved areas."

The results were submitted to the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.

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