Minnesota retail pharmacies to close as industry shrinks

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota health care provider’s plan to close its mail-order pharmacy business and 30 retail pharmacies underscores a troubling trend for the industry, with one organization predicting more than half the nation’s pharmacies could shutter in the next two years.
HealthPartner’s planned downsizing will result in about 300 job losses next year, Minnesota Public Radio News reported Friday. The company, which sells health insurance and runs hospitals and clinics, declined to comment on the report.
The retail pharmacy industry has been shrinking for over a decade, starting with the closing of many independent pharmacies in rural areas.
Sarah Derr, executive director of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, said the trend is likely to accelerate. She noted that The National Community Pharmacists Association recently predicted up to 58% of pharmacies nationwide could close in the next two years.
“And I know that sounds like a very scary statistic,” Derr said. “However, I am hopeful that we are able to restructure the way that we are paid__ and we’re seeing this with some payers already__ in order to keep doors open and potentially open pharmacies in the next few years.”
Derr said pharmacies are paid on the volume of prescriptions they fill, not for their professional services.
“Pressure that has been put on the pharmacies from a perspective of reimbursement for services through the pharmacy benefit managers and the health insurance companies have actually caused a lot of distress and a lot of consolidation in the marketplace, relative to retail pharmacies,” said Randall Seifert, associate dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy.
Job prospects are tough for the pharmacists who will be out of work. But the market is tight far beyond Minnesota. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts no growth in pharmacy jobs through 2028.
Derr said organizations like hers recognize prescriptions might be filled by machines in the future. She said future jobs will be in areas like using genetics to prescribe medications that work best for individuals or working alongside doctors in a clinic to manage patients with multiple drug treatments.
Seifert said the university is trying to change with the industry. “We are really exploring and working in areas where we give our students some opportunities to be able to look at different careers within pharmacy.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org