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January 1, America’s “Pharmacy Deserts”: Big Chains Close Doors, Millions Left Stranded



America’s major drugstore chains are shuttering hundreds of locations, morphing many communities into so-called “pharmacy deserts” and leaving them deprived of easy access to vital medications.

In a shocking move, titans like CVS and Walgreens have unveiled plans to shut down more than 1,500 stores collectively over the past two years. Add to the mix Rite Aid, which recently waved the white flag, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“About one in four neighborhoods are pharmacy deserts across the country. These closures are disproportionately affecting communities that need pharmacies most,” warns Dima Qato, an associate professor at the University of Southern California.

To underline the gravity, Lorece Edwards, a professor at Morgan State University, added that these areas already grapple with limited access to healthy and affordable food, making pharmacies critical lifelines.

However, analysts cite a cocktail of issues, including surging competition, changing consumer habits, retail theft, and minimal investments, driving these closures.

Neil Saunders, managing director of analytics firm GlobalData Retail, stated, “Retailers are looking to offload them.”

Consumer behavior is indeed changing. Saunders notes the influx of Dollar General and expanded supermarkets, stating, “So that’s really cleaned off some of the trade of these stores.”

Giants like Amazon and Walmart aren’t just spectators either — they’re ramping up their pharmacy game, providing competitively priced alternatives.

The very tactics of these drugstore chains seem self-destructive. Saunders pointed out their negligence in bolstering pharmacy staffing, which has led to frustrated customers experiencing poor service and delayed prescriptions. Employee walkouts due to subpar conditions are further tarnishing their image.

Big chain affiliations with insurance behemoths like Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield amplify the woes for independent pharmacies.

“This landscape of vertical integration… has put pharmacies who cannot participate at a huge disadvantage,” laments Mariana Socal from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The opioid crisis — America’s grim epidemic claiming over 300,000 lives since 2000 — casts another shadow. Walgreens, CVS, and Kroger have collectively coughed up billions to settle lawsuits. Even as Rite Aid inked a $30 million settlement with West Virginia, the specter of further lawsuits looms large.

Rite Aid, despite its fiscal nosedive, vows to combat “pharmacy deserts,” with a focus on underserved communities. Similarly, Walgreens and CVS, amidst large-scale closures, claim allegiance to serving the vulnerable — with promises of same-day prescription deliveries and community collaborations.

However, it’s not just the giants feeling the heat. Independent pharmacies, already grappling with wafer-thin profit margins, are seeing their survival threatened. Changes to Medicare payments are only set to tighten the noose, warns Ronna Hauser from the National Community Pharmacists Association.

As these pharmacies shutter, communities face uncertain healthcare futures, making one wonder: In the era of medical advancement, how can such basics remain so out of reach for so many?

As our loyal readers, we encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions on this issue. Let your voice be heard and join the discussion below.




  1. JoAnn Graham

    October 25, 2023 at 7:11 pm

    Do NONE of these people living in these “pharmacy and food deserts” see ANY connection between these store closures, and the roving gangs of THIEVES looting stores in broad daylight with NO fear of criminal prosecution? By allowing and condoning this criminal behavior, you have GUARANTEED that your community will be a “pharmacy and food desert!” Keep voting Democrat, and it will only get WORSE!

    • Cynthia Quintanilla

      October 25, 2023 at 7:40 pm

      I agree with you. Vandals and lack of respect for others is endemic to many communities. Unfortunately, I don’t think the mores of our country have changed, so I see more pharmacy deserts in the future 🙁

    • Greg

      October 25, 2023 at 8:12 pm

      How true

    • Dana

      October 25, 2023 at 8:35 pm

      Absolutely what Joann said!
      Just have to look at the reas these stores are closing

    • Muffin

      October 26, 2023 at 12:38 pm

      The Democrats are 100% responsible for this. The BLUE states have no enforcement for criminals. Just look at results where Dems are.
      I cannot understand how any conceivably smart/bright human being can cast a vote for them. It only continues to lead to further destruction of USA. Sure hope 2024 reverses that.


    October 25, 2023 at 8:05 pm

    Multiple factors affecting this – all at the same time. One factor that I have difficulty with is the opioid lawsuit issue. Not sure why the prescribing physicians/practitioners were not also sued (or ONLY sued) – (except for the “deep pockets” of course), since the pharmacies were NOT (as far as I have seen any literature about) recommending certain opiates to the practitioners. The ‘settlements’ won’t change prescribing habits since the prescribers have no skin in the game.

  3. Doug Corrigan Jr.

    October 25, 2023 at 9:07 pm

    Talk about whistling past the graveyard.This article makes only passing reference to the epidemic of shoplifting. Beyond that, the targeting of pharmacies by thieves and sadists creates massive liability to store owners. In Flint (Mich), where I used to work, there were multiple pharmacies open late or open 24/7. Now the half-million people in that city and the rest of the county have to travel up to 50 miles or more to fill a prescription at night.

    The “community” that the author cries for could contribute to resolving the problem, but prattling about “pharmacy deserts is apparently more fun and a lot easier than studying reality.

    There’s a reason why supermarkets have shuttered outlets in the inner city. It’s just a matter of time before gas stations exit the same environs. Who knows where people there will go to acquire their infamous volume of liquor.

    Governing bodies like city councils and county commissions seem to be totally disinerested (talk about deserts) and infact are often inclined to exacerbate relevant problems via defunding the police and otherwise crippling law enforcement.

    This is just another example, along with public schooling and undermining businesses in general, of the left plying its racism. The greatest victims are the youths who have no real voice or influence.

  4. kurt gandenberger

    November 20, 2023 at 3:45 pm

    when the rule of law is not upheld commerce becomes much more difficult. the stores in bad neighborhoods in my small city (about 30,000 perhaps in the city limit) have mostly shut down because they could not make a profit due to crime. those individuals now are starting to shop 10 miles away in my more affluent area. i hope they do not manage to shutter MY stores.

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