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  • Writer's pictureJessica Proctor

Are Pharmacies Profitable?

Globally, pharmacies have one of the highest profit margins among all industries. In 2017 the profit margin for pharmacies was 21.8%!

Like other sectors, such as supermarkets and travel services, pharmacies play a major role in our society - especially now during the current pandemic. Pharmacies are still, however, a business, and therefore they must find ways to create profit in order to thrive and help our society to their best potential... but how do they actually earn money?

It is worthwhile to note that many pharmaceutical dispensers (which play arguably the most important role in pharmacies) have a degree or some sort of paid training, yet their average yearly salary is as little as £18,000! In addition to the low salary, there is usually little room to ‘climb the ladder’ in a pharmaceutical career, especially in localised pharmacies in the UK. Pharmaceutical dispensers with the same knowledge and skill set are more likely to thrive in larger companies such as GlaxoSmithKline where there is a wider variety of career opportunities. This low pay for workers denotes that it must be easier - especially for private pharmacies - to make a profit compared to other businesses.

NHS (National Health Service) funded pharmacies generate over 80% of their income from the NHS, with the remaining 20% coming from private and over-the-counter sales. These pharmacies are paid around 90 pence by the NHS for each item dispensed, averaging around £2,000 a month (though this is highly based on the area the pharmacy is located in, and how many patients it has). The profit made, therefore, really lies in how many private and over-the-counter sales a pharmacy can make as it will make little profit from the NHS.

Last year the NHS spent more than £70 million giving Paracetamol to patients (even though it is available in common supermarkets for as little as 19p), yet the average person would pay £9.15p for the prescription charge! This shows how much trust people have in general practitioners, pharmacies, and the NHS for thinking they are receiving a better product when in actuality it is almost identical. General practitioners issued more than 21,740,000 prescriptions at an average of £3.23 per item, leading to an NHS profit of £5.92 per prescription. Overall, this was a profit of £128,700,800! We can presume half of these patients were exempt from payment, however, this would still be a huge profit of over £62,350,400. This manipulation of society clearly benefits the sector greatly!

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