Industry updates and trends

Navigating Changes to the Pharmacy Industry In 2024 and Beyond

February 14, 2024

After drastic changes to the way healthcare operates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re finally getting to a new normal. Now in 2024, independent pharmacies can expect a few key changes to the industry at large that will likely affect their day-to-day and practice’s bottom line.

With the right amount of preparation and the right tools, community pharmacies can overcome these challenges and even grow their revenue in the years to come. But, it’s important pharmacies stay on the pulse of the changes and adapt their strategies accordingly. Let’s dive into the biggest shifts in the pharmacy industry in 2024 — and how your pharmacy can successfully navigate them.

The Morphing Face of Retail Pharmacies

Competition for independent pharmacies is evolving, with pharmacy giants like Walgreens and CVS closing more and more storefronts in 2023 and 2024. Economic woes have caused these major retailers to pull back on their expansion of physical retail and instead shift to a more health and wellness-based approach to doing business.

Instead of simply filling prescriptions and selling OTC products, many retailers are now focusing their efforts on becoming community health destinations. This means shuttering less-frequented locations and remodeling model storefronts into prototype locations with enhanced health and wellness offerings. Walgreens and CVS have recently acquired or partnered with healthcare companies to become a more integrated part of the wellness experience. 

Many of these changes come as legislation like the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act and the Medical Nutrition Therapy Act gain bipartisan support which we’ll discuss in a later section of this article. It’s encouraging to see the role of pharmacies expand in the overall healthcare experience — and it provides an excellent opportunity for community pharmacists to stand out against corporate chains by providing more expansive and personal care to their patients that simply isn’t possible on a national scale.

Pressure to Reform Pharmacy Benefit Managers

The push for more understandable and transparent medication pricing has reached a head and new legislation is most likely coming soon. Bipartisan sources report widespread support for new laws that would alter the pricing practices of PBMs. 

Experts agree that an election year might encourage new legislation to be passed by incumbents as an appeal to voters. Polling found that 76% of voters are concerned that PBMs reimburse local pharmacies less for medicines than it costs the pharmacies to purchase and dispense them and 80% are concerned that only 3 PBMs control the vast majority of prescriptions. The same poll also found that most voters are in support of strong, decisive action by Congress that would put more money back in patients' and pharmacies’ pockets.

Changes to the way Pharmacy Benefit Managers are allowed to operate could be a huge driver for the profitability of independent pharmacies — so it’s essential that pharmacy owners stay up to date on new bills and look closely at how they would affect their bottom line and improve the financial wellbeing of their patients.

Changes to Rules and Legislation

Changes to DIR (Direct and Indirect Remuneration) fees have taken effect in 2024 and your pharmacy may still be facing cashflow challenges until your payments from 2023 have concluded. 

Independent pharmacy owners should also have a few other bills on their radar including:

The former permanently extends COVID-era permissions for pharmacies to perform testing, vaccination, and administration of prophylactic treatment — thus expanding the role of the pharmacist in healthcare. This would mean more patients would seek out your pharmacy for more services than just filling prescriptions — which is a huge potential upside for greater earnings. But, it also means many community pharmacies would have to streamline their operations in order to meet increased demands.

The latter bill “expands Medicare coverage of medical nutrition therapy services. The bill extends coverage to individuals with other diseases and conditions, including obesity, eating disorders, cancer, and HIV/AIDS; such services may also be referred by a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, or (for eating disorders) a clinical psychologist.” This means more referrals would be given for nutrition therapies — and that could make a huge difference for pharmacies with a dietitian on staff.

No matter the changes in store for 2024 and beyond, Nimble is committed to being a true partner in the growth of independent pharmacies. If you’d like to see how we can help future-proof your practice and even boost your revenue, sign up for a chat with Nimble experts, today.

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