Background: The effects of climate change are seen with a rise of extreme weather and climate events (EWCEs) which lead to the closures of many healthcare facilities, such as community pharmacies. Pharmacists in community pharmacies are seen as the most accessible healthcare professional to the public and are responsible for the continued delivery of care to patients. However, amid closures due to EWCEs and the emergence of pharmacy deserts, there is decreased access to pharmacies and a disruption of care.
Objective: It is important to address the preparedness and accessibility of pharmacies post-EWCEs to guide future research and policy. Additionally, to tackle health disparities that arise due to pharmacy deserts, the populations most affected by a decreased access to pharmacies should be identified. We conducted a scoping review to assess the preparedness and accessibility of pharmacies post-EWCEs and to identify populations most affected by pharmacy deserts.
Methods: We searched PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science from January 1, 2012 to September 30, 2022 and included all English-language, peer-reviewed primary literature that examined the preparedness and accessibility of community pharmacies in the United States post-EWCEs and addressed disparities within pharmacy deserts. Studies meeting these criteria were screened of their titles and abstracts by the first author and discrepancies were resolved with co-authors. We used Covidence for data extraction.
Results: A total of 472 studies were identified (196 duplicates removed) and after screening, 53 studies were assessed for eligibility. The results of included publications (N = 26) showed that pharmacists and pharmacies are not equipped with the necessary emergency protocols which could lead to decreased access of pharmacies in the wake of EWCEs. Pharmacy deserts disproportionately affect residents living in rural, lower income, and Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods. The lack of preparedness of pharmacies post-EWCEs could worsen medication access.
Conclusion: This scoping review addresses challenges impacting pharmacies and patients post-EWCEs and within pharmacy deserts. In times of increased need, these challenges implicate the well-being of communities affected by EWCEs by breaking the continuum of care and access to medications. Here we offer suggestions for future research and directions for policy change.
Keywords: extreme weather events; health disparities; natural disaster; pharmacist; pharmacy desert.