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Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable?

Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable? by Elements magazine |

August 29, 2018

Inside: Owning an independent community pharmacy requires a large investment—financially, physically, and emotionally. But is owning a pharmacy profitable? We’re here to help you find out.

Owning a pharmacy is like owning any other small business. Although your ultimate purpose is to improve people’s lives, your business purpose is to make a profit. If your business doesn’t profit, patients don’t profit.

Plus, starting a business requires a significant financial risk. The question is whether the investment will pay off, especially considering the current landscape of rising consolidations and declining reimbursements.

Is owning a pharmacy profitable?

We have the answer.

Is Owning a Pharmacy Profitable?

Every year, the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) releases the NCPA Digest. This report compiles data from independent pharmacies across the nation.

The Digest shows that the average independent pharmacy profit margin used to be steady and reliable.

But recently that changed. Since 2009, gross profit has steadily declined. “Most of the decrease came over the past four years, caused by below-cost reimbursement and unpredictable DIR fees in Medicare Part D,” according to the Digest.

But the fact that pharmacy is less profitable than it used to be doesn’t mean it isn’t profitable.

In fact, compared to other businesses, independent pharmacies make a healthy profit.

The average independent pharmacy profit margin in 2018 was 21.8 percent.

How profitable is that?

Well, it’s among the highest of any industry.

Each year, the financial information company Sageworks ranks the top 10 industries by profit. The number one profit margin in the 2017 report was only 18.4 percent.

Independent pharmacies outrank accountants, legal services, and even physicians.

To put it in more perspective: Apple’s profit margin for 2017 was 26.6 percent. The most successful retailer in the country only makes 4 percent more than your average independent pharmacy.

And many independent pharmacies make much more than that.

Of course, Apple’s revenue is significantly higher, which means it gets more from its margins.

But independent pharmacies earn a strong amount of revenue that results in a nice profit. In 2018, the average revenue for independent pharmacies was $3,484,000.

That makes the average independent pharmacy profit $‭759,512‬.

But these numbers are averages. Your profit as a pharmacy owner may range far below or beyond it, depending on how you run your business.


These Are the Most Important Pharmacy Metrics to Measure

This white paper includes 30+ formulas to calculate the most important metrics for independent pharmacies. You’ll learn to think like a retailer, discover the methods to track and measure meaningful pharmacy metrics, and learn how to use the metrics to get insight into business performance.

Get the free white paper. 



How Much Profit Can You Earn as a Pharmacy Owner?

Asking if owning a pharmacy is profitable is like asking if joining a team will win you a trophy. It could! If your team is stacked with great players and does all the right things.

How a pharmacy owner runs the pharmacy is more important than industry averages. Some pharmacies make no profit and go belly up. Others make more profit than they dreamed.

Is owning a pharmacy profitable? These five things will determine the outcome.

1. Script count

Prescription sales make up 92 percent of independent pharmacy sales on average.

Increasing your prescription volume will earn more profit overall. The logic for that is obvious. The more you sell, the more you’ll make.

Ideally, you’d increase your profit per prescription. But that’s almost entirely in the hands of payers. (Here are a few strategies to help, though.)

What you can do is sell more prescriptions and hope sales will add up to sufficient profit.

Strategies to increase script count and earn more profit include:


RELATED: How to Increase Prescription Volume at Your Independent Pharmacy

2. Type of services

When pharmacies put all their eggs in the prepackaged prescription basket, they limit their profit potential.

Smart pharmacy owners have learned that specialty prescriptions, including pet meds and compounding, contain a treasure trove of profit.

In addition, clinical services offer another profit stream for pharmacy owners that can outshine the most profitable prescriptions.

The degree to which pharmacy owners offer expanded services and specialty prescriptions will determine the degree of their profit margins.

Some of the most profitable services independent pharmacies can offer include:


3. Overhead costs

Before you get to take any money home, you have to pay the bills.

Pharmacy overhead costs consist of anything you have to spend to run your business.

Two pharmacies earning the exact same revenue might earn drastically different amounts of profit due to each pharmacy’s overhead costs.

Examples of pharmacy overhead costs include:


The amount you pay for all those expenses determines how much profit you’ll make.

If you can minimize your expenses, you’ll maximize your profit.

Here are some ways to cut your pharmacy overhead costs and make more profit.

4. Front-end sales

A pharmacy’s front end plays a part in the profitability of the business as a whole.

Although prescriptions will always dominate your sales, profitable pharmacy owners implement strategies to boost front-end purchases to increase pharmacy profit margins. Because the numbers don’t lie. The average margins on front-end merchandise are 15 percent higher than the margins on prescription sales.

Try these strategies to boost front-end sales:


READ NEXT: 15 Retail Strategies to Increase Front-End Sales Year-Round

5. Inventory costs

Cost of inventory affects independent pharmacy profit more than anything else.

Your cost of inventory depends on your primary wholesaler contract and on the secondary wholesalers you choose to buy from.

This is where you’ll find the greatest discrepancy between one pharmacy owner’s profit and another’s. Even if one owner’s business is identical to yours, there could be a 10 percent gap in profit simply because of their purchasing practices.

RELATED: How to Maximize Rebates and Profitability on Pharmacy Inventory 

When it comes to your primary wholesaler contract, don’t simply take what you can get.

To negotiate a better primary wholesaler contract you need:


But your inventory savings don’t end at negotiation. Making the most of your contract arrangement takes meticulous monitoring of your purchasing and impossibly intelligent decision-making. In every contract, complicated inventive structures substantially affect the final cost of goods. In fact, small purchasing decisions can make a difference of $17,509 a month for the average independent pharmacy.

The good news is you can get all this from one service.

Is owning a pharmacy profitable? The answer depends on you.


An Independently Owned Organization Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy side of their business. The company is a member-owned organization that serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, expert contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, distribution services, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited (formerly VAWD) warehouse with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products.

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