From 2000 to 2008, the number of independent pharmacies declined about 9 percent, to 22,728, according to data from the National Community Pharmacists Assn.'s 2009 Digest. With a steady decline in prescription drug reimbursements and competition from mail-order and national chains, many of these low-margin businesses have struggled to stay afloat. A key survival tactic has been to offer new services, says Kevin Schweers, the NCPA's vice-president of public affairs.
"Dispensing medicines is the least of what pharmacists should be doing nowadays," says Barry Bryant, who bought Barney's Pharmacy
in Augusta, Ga., in 1984. Today, Barney's has a clinic that it plans to duplicate when the pharmacy's sixth location opens next year. In 2004, Bryant started offering diabetes classes and has since added insulin-pump-training and cardiovascular classes. The pharmacy sells its curriculum to 450 pharmacies enrolled in Barney's online program
. When Bryant bought the store, Barney's had yearly sales of about $240,000. Now it achieves that much in about five days, he says.