Increasing internet availability and penetration along with the rise in smartphone availability has led the e-commerce business to witness exponential growth in all categories, from groceries to apparel to medicines. The result is a drastic shift in buying behavior, with people doing online shopping from the convenience of their homes. With the COVID-19 pandemic, online purchasing has become a necessity.
The first step for customers and patients to make online medicine purchases or through an e-pharmacy is to download the application on their phones and tablets or go to the website on their computers. These online pharmacies allow the scanning of prescriptions into the app or through the website.
India’s growth drivers for this phenomenon
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Central and State governments understood the need for e-Pharmacies, and they were classified as essential services. The e-pharmacies boost growth and enhance the ease of doing business in the pharmacy segment while ensuring that people can easily get the medicines they need without the risk of exposure.
- By eliminating the middlemen and offering discounts, e-Pharmacies can offer and supply a wide range of genuine medicines at affordable prices.
- Potential for sale in Tier II and III cities: The scope of expansion is very high in Tier II and III cities.
While the potential for sale is evident, laws apply to these sales counters like:
- Medicines can be sold only by a registered pharmacy that has a retail license.
- It has a registered pharmacist on the payroll.
- A prescription is mandatory for the sale of medicine, except for over-the-counter medical products.
- Orders for medicines can only be taken from areas where the pharmacy retail license applies.
- All medicines sold must be verified and certified by the registered pharmacist before delivery.
- Schedule X medicines cannot be sold without a prescription.
- For the sale of schedule H and X drugs, customer records have to be maintained, detailing name, doctor, and address.
- The sale of drugs to minors (under the age of 18) is prohibited.
- The selling of banned drugs and selling drugs at higher than maximum retail prices is prohibited.
The Benefits of Buying medicines online
- Online pharmacies stock almost all types of medicine and all brands. Buyers can check the medicines available online on computers or mobile phone apps and order as needed. The option of looking at a few different online vendors and order is a great convenience.
- The convenience of purchasing from the comfort of one’s home is unparalleled. There is no need to stand in a queue or a crowd, and there is no need to walk around to different pharmacies in case one pharmacy does not stock the required medicine. Online pharmacies are open for sales 24/7 and delivery is at the customer’s convenience.
- Online pharmacies reduce the cost of purchase due to reduced transactional costs and an efficient centralized order processing system. These savings can be passed on to the customers by supplying medicines at discounted rates. Since there are many online pharmacies, customers can compare prices on various websites before placing orders.
- With many brands competing for the same medicines, including generic medicines, customers may not be able to decide based solely on price. Online medicine retailers or online pharmacies have qualified pharmacists on board, and customers can upload prescriptions and ask for guidance from the pharmacist. Most online pharmacies also offer online chats for customers to connect with the help desk.
- For any online purchase, the security of transactions is of prime concern, and online pharmacies are no exception. These online pharmacies offer safe and secure payment options and processing so that customers can shop for medicines without having to worry about identity theft or hacking of their credit or debit card details.
- As the purchases are made online, and medicines are shipped directly to the address given, privacy is maintained.
- Ease of purchase. It’s extremely easy to complete purchases online. Computers and mobile apps make the process easy for everyone, and special computer skills are not needed.
The convenience, ease of use, security, and privacy have made buying medicine online a way of life for many, especially the elderly. But every coin has a flip side, and online pharmacies have their disadvantages.
Disadvantages of Buying Medicine Online
- Physical evaluation of the patient: While registered pharmacists in offline pharmacies can and may evaluate the patient before selling the medicine, this is not possible in the online medium.
- Sale of medicines without a prescription: Medicines can be purchased from many online pharmacies without the need to upload a prescription, and in the case of critical illnesses, this can lead to medical problems. This can be dangerous as antidepressants, anxiety, weight loss medicines, and sleep medicines may be sold and delivered without a prescription.
- Self-medication and self-diagnosis: Since medicines are available with or without a prescription, many people may just buy medicines based on their understanding of the illness or self-medication, which may cause adverse reactions or side effects.
- Counterfeit medicines: Since not all online stores are regulated, it may lead to the supply of counterfeit, adulterated, expired, or contaminated medicines. Such medicines pose a real risk for the patients, leading to severe medical issues and even fatality.
Well-defined benchmarks, security and privacy policies, and consumer awareness, including laws for buying online medicines, are the keys to ensuring that such systems work for the benefit of patients as well as authentic online pharmacies. Buying online medicine has several benefits attached to it, along with many disadvantages. And, if you’re a pharmacist wanting to sell medicines online, then you must leverage this trend. And, while online prescription delivery applications have become popular among budding startups, SMEs, and even big brands, a prescription delivery app development company can help develop a custom application that suits the needs of your customers.