The troubled economy and competition from U.S. pharmacy chains notwithstanding, Puerto Rico’s community pharmacies are holding their own and are likely to experience growth this year, according to the head of a cooperative of pharmacy owners.
Heriberto Ortíz, executive director of Coopharma, said community pharmacies are doing well and their 2014 revenues could grow by 2 percent.
On the short term, he could not say whether a recent incident in which two local pharmacies were caught selling adulterated medicines will have an impact on his sector.
“It’s still too early to say whether it is having an effect,” said Ortiz.
To counter the negative publicity, groups of local pharmacies, Coopharma among them, chipped in to place a full-page ad in a major daily to assure the public they “will always be ready to protect and defend the health of the Puerto Rican people, as we have done for more than a century.”
Whereas big chain make most of their revenue from floor sales, Ortiz said community pharmacies depend primarily on prescription sales. And because of that, they make it a point to provide a more personalized service that customers won’t find with the big chains like Walgreens and CVS, Ortíz said.
“It is more than just a simple sale,” he said. “We get to know the patient and his medical therapy.”
More than 1,000 pharmacies are licensed by the Puerto Rico Health Department to do business on the island, but this number also includes medicine cabinets kept by some institutions, medical offices, and ambulance stations. Ortiz said there are some 870 community and independent pharmacies and estimated that another 200 pharmacies are located in chain pharmacies (Walgreens and CVS) and retail chains like Kmart, Walmart, and Costco.
Coopharma is made up of 326 pharmacy-owner members who own 401 pharmacies across the island, primarily in the western side of the island.
For the second year in a row, the group will be holding its annual convention in San Juan, at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino located in the Convention Center. The activity, taking place May 30 to June 1, will have as its theme: “Growth through the cooperative movement.”
In 2010, the last year for which statistics are available, Puerto Rico’s pharmacy sector generated a whopping $4.1 billion in sales.