Geographical accessibility to community pharmacies by the elderly in metropolitan Lisbon

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In ageing societies, community pharmacies play an important role in delivering medicines, responsible advising, and other targeted services. Elderly people are among their main consumers, as they use more prescription drugs, need more specific health care, and experience more mobility issues than other age groups. This makes geographical accessibility a relevant concern for them.


To measure geographical pedestrian accessibility to community pharmacies by elderly people in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA).


The number of elderly people living within a 10- and 15-min walk was estimated based on the exploitation of population census data, the address-based location of 801 community pharmacies, and a Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) method for calculating distances between pharmacies and the centroids of census statistical subsections. Results were compared to figures attained via traditional methods.


In the LMA, 61.2% of the elderly live less than a 10 min walk from the nearest pharmacy and 76.9% live less than 15 min away. This opposes the common view that pharmacies are highly accessible in urban areas. In addition, results show a high spatial variability of proximity to pharmacies.


Despite the illusion of good coverage suggested at the metropolitan scale, accessibility measures demonstrate the existence of pharmaceutical deprivation areas for the elderly. The findings indicate the need for more accuracy in both access measurements and redistribution policies. Measurement methods and population targets should be reconsidered.

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