Pharmacists hope 2009 will be a good year for business

December 15, 2008

Despite challenges from a contracting economy, pharmacists are optimistic about 2009.

Key Points

A commercial thread that remains strong for community pharmacists is Americans' increasing reliance on prescription medications and other services. Because of that and other factors, 74 percent of community pharmacists responding to the 2009 Drug Topics Business Outlook Survey say that overall, they are expecting either a good, very good, or excellent business year for 2009.

However, the industry isn't poised to set any profit records in 2009 as growing challenges in the industry continue to exert pressure on pharmacies, including fiercer competition from mail-order drug companies, stricter Medicare payment policies, and higher operating costs.

Among the poll's other findings:

Some pharmacists are apprehensive about the contracting economy and the downward pressure it continues to have on pharmacies and their customers. Robert Kistler, RPh, who owns a pharmacy in Reading, Pa., said that the escalating cost of living is affecting consumer choices, which in turn impinges on his business.

Though profits are incremental for many pharmacies, overall costs continue to rise at a rapid rate.

"Operating expenses are already increasing," said Richard N. Logan III, PharmD, whose family owns two pharmacies in southeastern Missouri. "We have seen an increase in drug costs over the past 12 months. We do not charge for delivery services, which have been impacted by rising fuel prices. Until the economy stabilizes, I see operating expenses continuing to increase."

Logan says that despite the foundering marketplace, significant legislation passed on Capitol Hill this year should help push the industry forward in 2009.

"The biggest positive from 2008 that I expect to grow even more in 2009 is pharmacists' presence in Washington," he said.

Logan pointed to three lobbying victories for pharmacists this year. One addresses the timeliness of Medicare Part D payments to pharmacies.