The tension between the “business of pharmacy” and the professional responsibilities of pharmacists, as health care professionals, has always been present in retail (“community”) pharmacy practice. For much of the past several decades, pharmacies have generally been owned by pharmacists, elevating pharmacy ethics and professional responsibilities to the level of the owner. But the era of the independent pharmacist-owner-operated pharmacy is disappearing, and the era of the massive pharmacy chain is upon us. In the United States, CVS and Walgreens command 50% of the retail pharmacy business in major cities. In Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart has been purchased by the grocery giant Loblaw, and the Rexall chain has been purchased by American giant McKesson. And in the United Kingdom, retail pharmacy chain Boots has about 25% of pharmacy market share.
With this retail consolidation, are we seeing a decline in the autonomy of the front-line pharmacist? A scathing series of articles in The Guardian is raising questions about whether pharmacy giant Boots is putting a drive for profits ahead of safe and appropriate pharmacy care. And pharmacists are speaking up. Continue reading