Pharmacy deserts are essentially the same as food deserts — affecting the ability of lower income families in urban areas and smaller towns to access fresh food and, or keep them from getting essential medicines and vaccinations.
An area is labeled a pharmacy desert if people must walk or take a bus more than a half mile, or must drive more than a mile, to reach a pharmacy.
Low-income families could be at a high risk of losing their pharmacy access if the Kroger, Albertsons deal became official, one source from the California attorney general’s office told Reuters.
The fear is that less profitable stores would be closed, creating these kinds of large pharmacy deserts. As many as 650 locations could end up shutting down if the $24.6 billion merger is approved, according to Reuters.
Kroger offers pharmacies within 2,254 of its stores, but only around 1,700 Albertsons stores offer prescription medication and other health services.
A study by the University of Southern California in 2021 revealed that one in three neighborhoods in 30 cities were considered pharmacy deserts.
A Kroger spokesperson told Reuters that Kroger would handle the pharmacy side of the business for the Albertsons stores it acquires.
States have been attacking the Kroger, Albertsons merger in recent weeks. Last week the secretaries of states from Colorado, Arizona, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont wrote Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan asking the agency to stop the merger. The group said the deal would allow Kroger and Albertsons to control a quarter of the U.S. food retail market.
“We are strongly opposed to this merger and urge you to stop this corporate consolidation that is draining Americans of their hard-earned wages and livelihoods,” the letter said.
The FTC also is investigating whether the deal would influence suppliers to the point where smaller grocery chains would be negatively impacted.