Medicine retailing in the US is a huge market. All pharmacies in America are privately owned (that is, there are no state pharmacies), they belong to pharmacy chains or private entrepreneurs, and all these pharmacies have their own distinguishing features of work.
Types of pharmacies in the US
Currently in the US there are several types of pharmacies. The main part of them is retail pharmacies, hospital pharmacies and pharmacies specializing in the manufacture of medicines on an individual prescription. Recently, online pharmacies have also appeared on pharmaceutical market, and they are gaining popularity rapidly. The vast majority of pharmacists in the United States (more than 65%) work in retail pharmacies, mostly as employees, but sometimes they are owners of small pharmacies. About 22% of pharmacists work in hospital pharmacies, and the rest of the pharmacists work in companies that send medications by mail, online pharmacies, wholesale companies selling pharmacological drugs, and state institutions acting in the field of pharmacology.
American approach to the sale of pharmaceuticals
The organization of pharmaceuticals trade in the USA is very different from retailing drugs in other countries, where most drugs are sold through pharmacies and pharmacy chains. Despite the fact that the US pharmacies (drugstores) are the main channel for retail drug sales in the US, only 65% of prescription drugs and only about 45% of OTC drugs are sold through them. The remaining drugs are sold in supermarkets (such as Walmart) and grocery stores.
Prescription drugs are those that are sold only if the appropriate prescription is available. On the contrary, OTC medications can be bought by any buyer. For example, antidepressants and drugs for treating erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra vs Cialis, belong to prescription medications. Unfortunately, but now cheap generic Viagra isn’t available in the US as the patent for this medication hasn’t expired.
At the same time, in addition to prescription and over-the-counter medicines, pharmacies sell expensive cosmetics and perfumes, as well as related products, including not only food, but also beer, and spirits. Sometimes you can buy memory cards, T-shirts, and also make and print photos there.
According to NACDS (National Association of Chain Drug Stores) statistics, there are around 70 000 pharmacies in the USA. Most of them are owned by large, stable companies (pharmacy chain owners). The remaining part of pharmacies is owned by independent owners. Pharmacies, which belong to certain chain, offer cheaper production. Independent pharmacists, in turn, are located closer to patients and serve them more carefully.
Leading pharmacy chains in the USA
To date, there are more than two dozen pharmacy chains in the US, the largest of which (according to the number of pharmacists and annual sales) are CVS / Walgreens, and Rite Aid. All these drug stores offer customers to buy Viagra online (and “offline”, of course).
CVS is the biggest pharmacy chain in the US. It consists of 9600+ stores (2016 estimate). The second largest pharmacy chain is Walgreens; it owns 8.175 retail outlets (as of March 2017). The Rite Aid pharmacy chain is the 3rd largest in the US and the largest pharmacy chain on the East Coast. It operates 4621 pharmacies (as of June 2017).