The accessibility of pharmacies may be an overlooked contributor to persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the use of prescription medications and essential health care services within urban areas in the US. We examined the availability and geographic accessibility of pharmacies across neighborhoods based on their racial/ethnic composition in the thirty most populous US cities. In all cities examined, we found persistently fewer pharmacies located in Black and Hispanic/ Latino neighborhoods than White or diverse neighborhoods throughout 2007–15. In 2015 there were disproportionately more pharmacy deserts in Black or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods than in White or diverse neighborhoods, including those that are not federally designated Medically Underserved Areas. These disparities were most pronounced in Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Dallas, Texas; Boston, Massachusetts; and Albuquerque, New Mexico. We also found that Black and Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods were more likely to experience pharmacy closures compared with other neighborhoods. Our findings suggest that efforts to increase access to medications and essential health care services, including in response to COVID-19, should consider policies that ensure equitable pharmacy accessibility across neighborhoods in US cities. Such efforts could include policies that encourage pharmacies to locate in pharmacy deserts, including increases to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates for pharmacies most at risk for closure.
ASJC Scopus subject areas