Md. pharmacies see closures, ‘tremendous’ increase in demand since coronavirus pandemic

Pharmacies have been front and center of the coronavirus pandemic as patients seek them out for shots and counseling. The Maryland Pharmacists Association says it’s having a major impact on business.

“There has been a tremendous increase in patients in the pharmacies,” the Executive Director of the Maryland Pharmacists Association Aliyah Horton said.

More than 30 pharmacies in Maryland have closed in the past four months. That’s the same amount that closed in all of 2020, according to Horton.

“There is quite a bit of burnout and stress, and the great resignation that’s been across all employers, it’s hit pharmacy, as well,” Horton said.

She said that the demand has shed light on reimbursement practices that she said need a major overhaul.

“So, a lot of the questions and counseling check-ins that patients do in the pharmacy and the pharmacist takes time to do that, they’re not reimbursed, but if a patient went into a doctor and did the same thing, a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, they would be able to bill someone for that time,” Horton said.

She said that her organization is currently working on legislation to address the reimbursement challenges pharmacists face.

“I would say in the last six to seven years, pharmacies have been under-reimbursed for medications that they dispense. So when they’re dispensing medications, they’re losing money and kind of putting themselves out of business,” Horton said.

Horton added that nationally, 70% of all coronavirus vaccinations are administered by a pharmacist.

She said the pandemic has put a new type of demand on pharmacies.

“People are still coming in to get their first round of COVID-19 vaccination, we got folks with the boosters, and also the pediatric vaccinations,” Horton said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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