The USA's 39,000 chain pharmacies dispensed more than 2.5 billion prescriptions in 2007, or about 72% of the total filed throughout the country, and the economic impact of retail stores with pharmacies reached well beyond their $827 billion in annual sales, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS).

In fact, US retail stores with pharmacies – including front-end and pharmacy departments of chain and independent traditional drugstores, supermarkets and mass merchandisers – had an economic impact on the US economy totaling $2.42 trillion last year, which is equivalent to around 17% of national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the Association’s latest annual Chain Pharmacy Industry Profile. As well as being a frontline health care provider, “every one dollar spent in these stores creates a ripple effect of $2.93 throughout other segments of the economy, including manufacturing, information technology, construction, real estate, transportation and others,” says the Association.

Moreover, for US consumers, the average distance to the nearest pharmacy – a traditional drugstore, supermarket or mass merchandiser – is just 1.86 miles, which makes pharmacies “one of the most convenient resources for health care as well as everyday household needs,” said Steven Anderson, the NACDS’ chief executive. "As the face of neighbourhood health care, pharmacies contribute to the overall community health, which includes the well-being of patients, economic vitality and good jobs,” says the Association.

- IMS Health has reported that the US prescription drug market reached a value of $286.5 billion last year, with overall sales growth moderating to 3.8% compared with a rise of more than 8% in 2006. The firm also projects that the market will show growth of 3%-6% each year to 2012.