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Growth of online pharmacies

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A decade ago, no one would have believed or imagined, that anyone would order a medicine from an internet site in future. But despite the strong presence of traditional pharmacies, people started preferring e pharmacies for ordering medicines. As a result, the number of e pharmacy began to dominate the internet space. With a change in consumer’s attitude, the growth of e-pharmacies (online pharmacies) has changed the face of the pharmaceutical and medical sector.

Why online pharmacies are popular ?

Adjustable pricing

Online pharmacies offer good price than retail medical stores. They offer good discounts on medicines, doorstep delivery within a short time. Though they cannot deliver medicines on emergency, lower price seems to have got the attention of the people. How is it possible ? Online pharmacies have less operating cost. For example, conventional pharmacies must rent or own physical space. If the place is rented, the owner must pay for the commercial price according to the real estate market. With the monthly or annual rent added along with expenses of utilities which are termed as the operational expenses, are passed on to final product. Thereby traditional ones cannot reduce MRP.

Varieties of medicine

Traditional medical stores can stock just few hundred medicines. But online pharmacies can load many thousands of medicines due to the presence of warehouses. Besides, traditional pharmacies don’t provide alternative drugs for a particular medicine, but the user can choose numerous alternative drugs for disease, which gives a variety in an online site. With the hundreds of different drugs, all formulated to treat one specific medical condition, online pharmacies have upper hand in offering varieties, since they allow the patients to choose the drugs that best suit them. The freedom to choose is a sure way to reach the mind and heart of the consumers.

Reach and accessibility

With the online pharmacies, patients in the remote areas can access and get the medicine he/she wants. Besides, accessibility is an added feature for online pharmacies. For example, if a patient runs out of their usual drug, instead of having to find an alternative which could be not as effective, they can simply search the internet to find out which online pharmacy nearby that contains the drug in stock for fast delivery. Online pharmacies have made possible for anyone to buy drugs they wish to consume irrespective of their location.

Time saver

Ordering a rare medicine through a pharmacy when the pharmaceutical company is located in a distant remote location is a tough task. With the arrival of online pharmacies, even a single drug is delivered with a span of two or three days. How ? It is due to the fact that e-pharmacies source for their drugs from all over the country or throughout the world. Almost all the online pharmacies are not limited by distance between their premises and their customers. This makes them possible for anyone to buy medicines from anywhere without any sort of obstacles. Another reason why online pharmacies are affordable is because of their low cost of operation. Conventional pharmacies must lease space. With that comes the monthly or annual rent to the property owner plus other utilities.

Dangers of online pharmacy

  • Despite, a bundle of advantages, many experts have pointed out that one fifth of the medications sold through online pharmacies is fake. These drugs contain either different active ingredients or no active ingredients. As result, the drug which is consumed greatly increases the risks of adverse drug reactions or even overdose.
  • Besides, while ordering medicine from overseas online pharmacies, there are risks that they could have manufactured the drug with little regard for patient safety, and they could be contaminated with dangerous chemical or adulterants.
  • Since most of online pharmacies don’t follow the compulsory submission of prescription, there are dangers of ordering medications without consulting with a doctor. This leads to risks of adverse drug interactions and addiction.

Government Draft on online pharmacies

The Union Health Ministry of India has come out with draft rules on sale of drugs by e-pharmacies The primary purpose is to regulate online sale of medicines across India and provide patient accessibility to genuine drugs from authentic online portals. The draft rules on "sale of drugs by e-pharmacy" state that no person will distribute or sell, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through e-pharmacy portal unless registered. Any person who intends to conduct business of e-pharmacy shall apply for the grant of registration to the Central Licensing Authority in Form 18AA through the online portal of the Central Government. The draft notification says the application of registration of e-pharmacy will have to be accompanied by a sum of Rs 50,000 while asserting that an e-pharmacy registration holder will have to comply with provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000). The details of patient shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed to any person other than the central government or the state government concerned, as the case may be. The supply of any drug shall be made against cash or credit memo generated through the e-pharmacy portal and such memos shall be maintained by the e-pharmacy registration holder as record

Are Online pharmacies threat to traditional pharmacies ?

No. Online pharmacies can never replace the traditional pharmacies. Though, traditional pharmacies might feel threatened, they don’t need to worry about them. Since the sheer physical presence adds value to the traditional pharmacies. The personal touch which plays a great role in the medical sector, is abundantly available in traditional pharmacies, where a pharmacist may help through advising or offer prior warning to the consumer. So these aspects are clearly in the favour of traditional pharmacies.

Conclusion

Online pharmacies could be a boon for consumers, but lack of oversight, fake medicines, sugar pills, expired medicines and contaminated medicines pose a real risk. Since most of the online pharmacies aren’t monitored, so it could encourage fraudulent practices such as sending wrong dosages or generic variants when the doctor has prescribed a brand name. Moreover, online pharmacies might increase self-medications, so they must create awareness of the dangers of self-medication.

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