Patient Steering a Massive Problem for Community Pharmacists, New Survey Shows

Three quarters identify CVS Health as the top offender

NCPA September 17, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Sept. 17, 2020) — Almost 80 percent of community pharmacists say they’ve lost patients because of unfair steering in the past six months, and CVS Health is most often the culprit, according to a new survey released today by the National Community Pharmacists Association.

“Many members have been telling us that their patients are being transferred to larger competitors, and in many cases the patients don’t know when, why, or how. This survey sheds some light on the problem, and the results are very disturbing,” said B. Douglas Hoey, NCPA’s CEO.

According to the survey, 79 percent of community pharmacists say their patients’ prescriptions were transferred to another pharmacy in the last six months without their patients’ knowledge or consent. The median average of patients lost was 12. In one case, a California pharmacist heard from his own sister that she was transferred to a chain store without her authorization.

Patients are sometimes transferred from one pharmacy to another, but they must be notified, and they must consent to the move. That’s not happening in many cases, according to the NCPA survey, and CVS Health is most often the place where community pharmacy patients end up. Nearly 78 percent of respondents say their patients were transferred to CVS Health without their knowledge or consent. That’s more than double the number of other pharmacies named by respondents.

“That’s a big red flag,” said Hoey. “The pharmacy sector is very competitive, and most big chains have aggressive marketing schemes aimed at taking patients from rivals. CVS Health not only owns brick and mortar stores, but it also owns its own insurance companies, Aetna and Caremark. That information allows it to eavesdrop on when and where patients are getting their prescriptions and, as the survey reported, coerce unknowing patients into CVS stores.”

Hoey said state and federal regulators should be concerned by the survey findings as well.

“Competition should allow the consumer to have freedom to choose. That’s especially important when it comes to health care choices. When the largest players tilt the playing field, patients are robbed of choice. And small businesses, the backbone of the U.S. economy, are forced to close,” he said. “The survey showed smoke. More scrutiny is needed to put out the fire.”

Note: This NCPA survey is based on 412 responses collected from 8,000 pharmacy owners and managers between Sept. 8-11, 2020.


Founded in 1898, the National Community Pharmacists Association is the voice for the community pharmacist, representing over 21,000 pharmacies that employ approximately 250,000 individuals nationwide. Community pharmacies are rooted in the communities where they are located and are among America's most accessible health care providers. To learn more, visit