How to Open an Independent Pharmacy Business


Building an independent pharmacy business from the ground up comes with challenges that small-business start-ups in other industries don’t experience. Although the path to ownership includes many of the same steps any new start-up goes through, many of the tasks and considerations within each step apply specifically to independent pharmacy businesses.

Federal and State Registration and Licensing

  • Contact your state Board of Pharmacy for assistance and information about state business licensing requirements. In addition to a state-issued pharmacy business license, you will need to register as an independent pharmacy business and get a DEA number from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. To comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations, you will need a National Provider Identification number, available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. You will also need a National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Accreditation number before you can service Medicare or Medicaid customers.

Store Layout and Setup

  • Create a floor plan that maximizes workflow efficiency, provides for strong internal control, and is accessible and comfortable for customers. For example, increase aisle width to accommodate multiple customers using walkers, wheelchairs and other mobility aids. Designate one or more areas to use for private consultations and periodic events such as flu shots or blood pressure checks. Create a comfortable waiting area close to the pharmacy counter. Consider installing video surveillance equipment, both to deter theft and make it easier to spot customers requiring help or specialized assistance.

Make Sure Employees Are Licensed

  • Recruit and hire licensed employees with pharmacy experience. For the most part, state regulations require pharmacists, technicians and employees who counsel customers to get and maintain a state-issued license. Because licenses are specific to each state, an employee with an out-of-state license will need to either transfer the license or submit a new license application before starting work. Create a continuing education plan to make sure your employees comply with state-mandated license renewal requirements.

Insurance Requirements

  • You will need to insure both your business and your employees. In addition to a comprehensive business owner policy, auto insurance and unemployment insurance, pharmacists' professional liability insurance is a prime requirement. This insurance is vital to protect your business financially and legally if a professional mistake or omission harms or causes a customer to suffer a loss. Increase insurance protections even further by taking out a separate professional liability insurance policy for each pharmacist and technician you employ.

Prescription Drug Diversion

  • Prescription drug stealing, or diversion, as it’s known in the industry, is a growing challenge with pharmacy personnel due to the high street value of prescription drugs and personal gain or dependency. Set up a well-structured system to monitor activity in drug inventory purchasing, current and out-of-stock items, especially for seasonal drugs such as Tamiflu or drugs known to be frequently abused. Have ongoing measures in place to report exceptions such as missing inventory. Other important measures would include keeping high visibility in drug storage and prescribing areas, monitoring any personnel behavior changes, and performing pre-employment background checks and drug testing for all personnel.

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