Monday, November 03, 2003

My latest Tribune story:
A sidebar for the Sunday Magazine on the endurance of mom-and-pop pharmacies in the age of Walgreens.,1,3810238.story

Every street does seem to sprout a new Walgreens, CVS or Osco. But it turns out that mom & pop pharmacies are hanging in there after bottoming out eight years ago, when only 20,000 U.S. indies remained of 40,000 in the 1970s. "Since the mid-1990s, the independent pharmacies that survived the shakeout have been pretty much holding their own," says Dr. David Zgarrick of Midwestern University's Chicago College of Pharmacy. "Their number has stayed constant or even increased slightly." Today, there are 230 indies in Chicago, 700 statewide. Compare to Walgreens' 122 in the city and 228 in the burbs (the Deerfield chain opens new stores around the U.S. at a rate of 8 to 9 a week) and CVS's 50. All are scrambling to meet spiraling demand for medications, double that of 1991. Boomers get more RX's, doctors are replacing hospital stays with meds and more folks seek "lifestyle drugs" for everything from allergy to sex. Most go to mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart, mail-order houses or the chains. But Michael Patton, of the Illinois Pharmacists' Assn., says indies still count: "An independent pharmacist fills a consultancy role--not just filling prescriptions, but talking about a drug regimen with a customer."

-My Tribune archive

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