Community pharmacies play a crucial role in patient
safety, particularly in optimizing safe medication use.
Understanding the geographic distribution and
availability of community pharmacies is important in
developing policies that will strengthen
pharmacist-patient connections and support safe
continuity of care. The purpose of this brief is to
examine the availability of community pharmacies and
their provided services in rural areas of the U.S. The
brief also provides a deeper analysis of counties with no
retail pharmacies (i.e., pharmacy deserts) based on
In 2021, there were 138 counties with no retail pharmacy,
including 101 noncore, 15 micropolitan, and 22
metropolitan counties. By most measures, the proportion
of the population considered vulnerable, including
nonwhite, uninsured, unemployed, and income below the
federal poverty level, is higher in noncore counties with
no retail pharmacies than in other counties with no
retail pharmacies. Further, the percent of population
aged 65 and older and the percent aged 85 and older are
higher in noncore and micropolitan counties with no
pharmacy than in metropolitan counties.
Pharmacy deserts lead to issues of reduced access for
populations in lower socioeconomic and rural locations.
Telepharmacy constitutes one possible solution to
pharmacy deserts, given its potential to improve access
in these needy areas. Despite the possibility of using
telepharmacy to improve access to health services in
medically underserved regions, only around half of U.S.
states have passed legislation authorizing telepharmacy.
To scale up pharmacy services in the U.S., tackling
matters of reimbursement, licensing, and data security
will be crucial.