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Rural Policy Brief. 2013 Jan 1;(2012 5):1-5.

Rural pharmacy closures: implications for rural communities.


Retail pharmacies provide essential services to residents of rural areas and serve many communities as the sole provider of pharmacist services. Losing the only retail pharmacy within a rural community (census designated city), and within a 10 mile radius based on driving distance ("sole community pharmacy"), may affect access to prescription and over-the-counter drugs and, in some cases, leave the community without proximate access to any clinical provider. This policy brief documents the closure of local retail pharmacies in which the pharmacist was the only clinical provider available in the community at the time the pharmacy closed. Characteristics of the community and the retail pharmacy are described. The findings may suggest future policy actions to minimize the risk or mitigate the negative consequences of pharmacy closures. Key Findings. (1) Between May 1, 2006, and October 31, 2010, 119 sole community pharmacies closed. (2) Of those 119 pharmacies, 31 were located in rural communities with no other health professionals or clinical providers. (3) In 16 states, at least 1 community lost a sole community retail pharmacy, and there was no other pharmacy within 10 miles (actual driving distance). (4) Of the 31 pharmacy closures in communities with no other providers, 17% were located in remote rural areas designated with a Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) score of 10 or higher. Such a score means that, on average, 60 minutes of travel time is required to reach an urbanized area, and 40 minutes is required to reach a large urban cluster of 20,000 population or more.

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