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Health Aff (Millwood). 2014 Nov;33(11):1958-65. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.1397.

'Pharmacy deserts' are prevalent in Chicago's predominantly minority communities, raising medication access concerns.

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Dima M. Qato ( is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes, and Policy at the University of Illinois, in Chicago.
Martha L. Daviglus is a professor of medicine and executive director of the Institute for Minority Health Research at the University of Illinois, in Chicago.
Jocelyn Wilder is a research assistant in the Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy, at the University of Illinois.
Todd Lee is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes, and Policy at the University of Illinois.
Danya Qato is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Health Services, Policy, and Practice at the Brown University School of Public Health, in Providence, Rhode Island.
Bruce Lambert is a professor of communication studies at Northwestern University, in Chicago.


Attempts to explain and address disparities in the use of prescription medications have focused almost exclusively on their affordability. However, the segregation of residential neighborhoods by race or ethnicity also may influence access to the pharmacies that, in turn, provide access to prescription medications within a community. We examined whether trends in the availability of pharmacies varied across communities in Chicago with different racial or ethnic compositions. We also examined the geographic accessibility of pharmacies to determine whether "pharmacy deserts," or low-access neighborhoods, were more common in segregated black and Hispanic communities than elsewhere. We found that throughout the period 2000-2012 the number of pharmacies was lower in segregated minority communities than in segregated white communities and integrated communities. In 2012 there were disproportionately more pharmacy deserts in segregated black communities, as well as in low-income communities and federally designated Medically Underserved Areas. Our findings suggest that public policies aimed at improving access to prescription medications may need to address factors beyond insurance coverage and medication affordability. Such policies could include financial incentives to locate pharmacies in pharmacy deserts or the incorporation of pharmacies into community health centers in Medically Underserved Areas.


Access To Care; Disparities; Health Reform; Pharmaceuticals

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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