Pharmacy Deserts

pharmacy desert
Exploring Pharmacy Density Nationwide
Published by Chris Riley on August 4, 2023
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Everyone needs access to a pharmacy, but how accessible are they to people in the U.S.? Depending on the state you live in, a pharmacy might be around the corner, or it might be a lot farther than that. Seeing as there are over 26,000 pharmacy and drug store businesses scattered across the country, finding one isn’t the hard part, but getting there might be. 

First, we’ll assess pharmacy availability on a state-by-state basis and then take an even closer look at various counties across the country. Finally, we’ll check out pharmacy density in given locations using square mileage analysis. From the findings, we’ll see who’s won the ‘pharmacy proximity’ jackpot – read on to find out!

State Assessments

On a state-by-state basis, which have the most and least pharmacy locations for their residents?

state by state analysis
Source: U.S. Census Bureau & Internal Pharmacy Data

California had the most pharmacies in the country with 5,559 establishments, followed by Texas with 4,631 spots. These two states are the most populated in the country (around 39 million and 29 million, respectively), so it makes sense that they’d also have the most pharmacies. On the other side of the spectrum, Wyoming had the least number of pharmacies, with just 109 locations within its borders – however, Wyoming also has the lowest population in the country, with around 580,000 residents.

Per 10,000 residents, though, the statistics changed. North Dakota led the pack with 3.38 pharmacies – interestingly, the state also has the fifth least total locations (177). Oklahoma had the fewest pharmacies per capita at 1.19, and California was not far behind at 1.45, even though they had the most total locations.

County Assessments

county by county pharmacy density
Source: Source: U.S. Census Bureau & Internal Pharmacy Data

In terms of pharmacy density by individual county, Los Angeles had the most locations at 1,486, which is almost twice as many as the next county, Cook, Illinois. Over a quarter of counties had either two or three pharmacies, and 21% had anywhere between four and 19 locations. Per 10,000 residents, 34% of counties had between two and 2.99 locations, while the average American county had 2.4.
The citizens of Hodgeman County, Kansas, and Norton City, Virginia, had no trouble accessing a pharmacy – locations were in the double digits per 10,000 residents in both counties. In fact, three counties in Virginia were included in this top ten list (Norton City, Martinsville City, and Galax). Residents of King William, Virginia, weren’t as lucky, as the county only had 0.58 pharmacies per 10,000 residents. The least dense location was in Polk, North Carolina, clocking in at 0.48 locations. Regarding specific pharmaceutical chains, CVS was reported to be the largest with 9,968 chains across the U.S., followed closely by Walgreens with 9,024.

Square Mileage Assessment

infographic of pharmacy county information
Source: Source: U.S. Census Bureau & Internal Pharmacy Data

We next looked at pharmacy density per square mile, and New York City had a whopping 14.1 pharmacies by this measure. The number two and three most dense counties were also in New York: Kings and the Bronx. The first 6 of the top 10 counties with the least pharmacies per square mile were all located in Alaska – the most desolate one was North Slope, with only 0.00001 per square mile!

Seeing as the population of New York City is over 8 million people, compared to the entire state of Alaska with only around 725,000 residents to its name, the difference in pharmacy density is stark, but it checks out.

When comparing the top 50 richest and poorest counties, there’s minimal difference between the pharmacy density per 10,000 residents (only 0.04 more in rich counties). There is a major discrepancy in the number of pharmacies, though – the richest ones have, on average, 83 more than poorer ones, making the trek for pharmaceutical supplies a lot longer for those living in less favorable environments.

Additional Data

Next Time You Need a Refill …

Unsurprisingly, the more densely populated a state or county, the more pharmacies there will be in that given location. California, Texas, and New York are filled with them, but you’d be lucky to find one near you in Alaska.


For this study, we used our pharmacy database featuring details on over 62,000 pharmacies across the United States. This internal data was combined with publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, including data related to population by county and state, land area by county, and income by county and state.

Fair Use Statement

If you know someone who ever wondered about pharmacy density across the continental U.S., this is the article for them. Otherwise, feel free to share this piece with whoever you’d like – we just ask that you do so for noncommercial use only and to please provide a link back to the original page so contributors can earn credit for their work.

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Current Version

Edited By

Chris Riley


Fact Checked By

Giselle Leung, PharmD, BCGP


We are committed to providing our readers with only trusted resources and science-based studies with regards to medication and health information. 

Disclaimer: This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. If you suspect medical problems or need medical help or advice, please talk with your healthcare professional.


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