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What’s next?

DSN's editor-in-chief looks at how threats to retail pharmacy are constant...and more issues to tackle are on the way.

As I am writing this column, I’m sitting in the Courtyard Cafe of the Breakers at NACDS Annual 2023. The mood is particularly upbeat and filled with optimism, not just because we’re at an unbelievable location on the Atlantic Ocean. Recent state momentum on DIR fees and PBM reform is another reason.

Suddenly, retail pharmacy sees a path forward on a major policy point that has a huge impact on the business model, and just the possibility of reform is exhilarating.

But other issues loom. Retail pharmacies are still under threat from growth in online pharmacies; mail-order pharmacies; online and specialty retailers; dollar stores and their expansion into health care; and the shortage of pharmacists, which is forcing some drugstores to reduce their operating hours. Our cover story this month explores these issues, and discusses some ideas that are ripe for exploration.

Talking to retailers at Annual revealed another set of challenges that are right around the corner, however: What happens if pharmacists are able to achieve more prescribing authority? What if more states and the federal government grant pharmacists expanded scope of practice that aligns with their education and training?

Turns out, another set of challenges surface if this were to happen. The average pharmacy will have to add space for clinical services and waiting rooms; expensive store remodels will be required; pharmacists will have to do extensive data collection and reporting; and staffing, which is already a challenge, suddenly becomes a monumental obstacle.

Retailers must now start to think about how the business will be transformed—Pharmacy 3.0, if you will. Amid all of the new concerns, retail pharmacy must also keep in mind who will be the customer of tomorrow—millennials who are more comfortable with online services; women in their 20s through 40s who spend nearly $1,200 a year on beauty products; multiethnic shoppers who want to see themselves represented on the shelves; and nonbinary shoppers who will have different wants and needs.

Yes, the issues are many, but retailers have no choice but to tackle them head-on and come up with ideas to solve them. The future depends on it 

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