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West Virginia lawmakers, others work to address issues facing the state’s pharmacies

By Jesten Richardson, The Herald Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers and Marshall University faculty members are working to fix “pharmacy deserts” in the state that could leave residents vulnerable.

A pharmacy desert in an urban area occurs when the area is more than one mile away from a pharmacy, and in a rural area, a pharmacy desert occurs when the area is at least 10 miles from a pharmacy, according to Thomas Pile, clinical assistant professor in Marshall’s School of Pharmacy.

Pile said West Virginia has 11 regions that have been identified as pharmacy deserts when going by the rural definition, and these regions are primarily in the northern part of the state.

“Pharmacies employ a lot of people in a lot of communities, and so they’re definitely a hub of health care,” said Craig Kimble, associate dean and associate professor in Marshall’s School of Pharmacy. “They provide good jobs. They provide services to a lot of folks, deliveries … immunizations, blood pressure checks, testing, quite a number of things.”

“If a pharmacy closes and someone doesn’t have access to their prescription medication, that person is now an ER patient, because they’re not able to obtain their … medication,” Pile said. “You’re talking about ER visits at that point, so pharmacy closures could definitely lead to increased hospitalizations.”

The West Virginia House of Delegates is considering two Senate bills, SB 453 and SB 325, that could address some of the issues pharmacies and patients in the state are facing.

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