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Sigma conference: Independents have ‘room to improve’ on services


Sigma conference: Independents have ‘room to improve’ on services

IQVIA's Carol Alexandre presenting at the 2024 Sigma conference

Independent pharmacies are outperforming multiples in terms of dispensing market share but have “room to improve” when it comes to signing up for NHS services, the 2024 Sigma Pharmaceuticals conference has heard.

In her presentation today (February 26) Carol Alexandre, vice president of global accounts at IQVIA, presented data showing that independents dispensed an average of 8,800 items per pharmacy in October 2023, up from 7,800 in October 2019, compared to national chains which have seen their branch average drop from 7,700 to 7,500 over the same period. However, supermarkets took the lead on dispensing ‘acute treatment’ items as a result of their longer opening hours, she said.

Large multiples and supermarket pharmacy chains are dispensing fewer scripts than their store presence might indicate, Ms Alexandre said, explaining that they account for 35 per cent of community pharmacies but only 30 per cent of items. Meanwhile, independents account for 41.6 per cent of pharmacies and 42.6 per cent of dispensed items.

Concerns were raised at the conference about the impact of rising script numbers on independents. In her presentation, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies chief executive Leyla Hannbeck said the gross margin on dispensing is “in freefall,” having dropped by 23 per cent since April 2015. "This is one of the biggest issues in community pharmacy," Ms Hannbeck said, with many contractors finding themselves "out of pocket".

Meanwhile, Ms Alexandre presented data showing that while independents offer the most interventions across a range of pharmacy services – delivering an average of 30 CPCS consultations and 39 New Medicines Service consultations a month compared to 29 and 14 respectively for national chains – they have “room to improve” when it comes to delivering NHS services.

She explained that in October 2023 less than 40 per cent of independents were offering hypertension checks compared to over 60 per cent of national chains, with supermarket and national change taking the lead over independents in a number of other services too.

Atorvastatin tops generics table

Generics medicines account for 55.3 per cent of the pharmacy market in terms of unit volume but only 23.7 per cent in value term, Ms Alexandre said, although the value of generics to the overall market rose by a quarter in the 12 months to November 2023.

Atorvstatin tops the list of generic medicines by volume at 49.4 million packs dispensed in the year to November 2023, making up 5.2 per cent of the overall market. Independent pharmacies dispensed 56.7 per cent of these packs, with regional chains and national multiples dispensing around 40 per cent between them.

From November 2022 to November 2023, the community pharmacy market grew by 8.5 per cent in value and 3.8 per cent in volume, she said.

The global medicines market is expected to grow at a 5-8 per cent compound annual growth rate by the end of 2028, rising to around $2.3tn, Ms Alexandre said, with the strongest growth expected to be seen in the obesity and oncology categories. Oncology is the fastest growing therapy area in the UK, she added.                                             

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