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Why ePharmacy has not attained its full potential

Article-Why ePharmacy has not attained its full potential

Shutterstock epharmacy on the rise
ePharmacies need to address specific challenges to gain wider acceptance among patients, besides securing a solid regulatory framework.

The rise of technology and e-commerce has revolutionised the way we shop, including how we purchase healthcare products. ePharmacy, or online pharmacies, have been on the rise for the past few years, providing customers with a convenient and cost-effective alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar pharmacies. The United States of America, Germany and China are set to hold 34.6 per cent, 6.3 per cent, and 6.6 per cent shares of the global market, respectively in 2023. Despite its potential, ePharmacy has not yet attained its full potential. Here is why:

Lack of awareness

One of the biggest challenges faced by ePharmacy is the lack of awareness among consumers. Many people are not aware of the existence of online pharmacies and are more comfortable with the traditional way of purchasing medicines.

Regulatory barriers

The pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated, and ePharmacy is no exception. The lack of clear guidelines and regulations makes it difficult for ePharmacies to operate efficiently. In some countries, the regulatory framework for ePharmacies is not well-established, which creates uncertainty and ambiguity for businesses.

Logistics challenges

Another significant challenge faced by ePharmacies is logistics. Delivering medicines on time, handling returns, and ensuring quality control can be difficult, especially when shipping perishable items like medicines. In addition, ePharmacies may face restrictions on the type and quantity of medicines that can be delivered, depending on the destination country’s regulations. Moreover, the transportation and storage of some medicines require specialised handling and equipment, which may not be available in all areas.

Competition from traditional pharmacies

Traditional pharmacies have been around for a long time and have built trust with customers over time. They have a physical presence, and customers can speak with a pharmacist or staff to clarify their doubts. Moreover, traditional pharmacies often have the advantage of location, making it easier for customers to access medicines quickly.

Technical glitches

Technical glitches and cyber-security issues also pose a major challenge for ePharmacies. Online pharmacies are vulnerable to hacking, data theft, and other cyber-attacks, which can compromise the privacy and security of patients’ personal and financial information.

Limited availability

ePharmacies often have limited availability and may not be able to cater to all areas or regions. This can limit the reach of ePharmacies and prevent people living in remote or underserved areas from accessing the medicines they need.

Inadequate payment options

Another challenge faced by ePharmacies is the limited number of payment options available to patients. Many ePharmacies only accept credit or debit card payments, which can be inconvenient for people who do not have access to these payment methods.

In all of these, opportunities for the industry abound ahead.

KPMG India reports that the global ePharmacy market was valued at US$0.8 billion in 2020, out of which prescription drugs occupied 68 per cent revenue share and over the counter (OTC) drugs occupied 32 per cent revenue share.

Over-the-counter product segments are expected to hold a market segment of about 71.4 per cent in 2023. As customers become more aware of the treatment for primary diseases, the need for OTC will increase. Sales in the ePharmacy industry will be driven by the availability, affordability and accessibility of OTCs.

ePharmacies need to address the highlighted challenges to establish trust and gain wider acceptance among customers. The regulatory framework needs to be established to ensure the quality and safety of medicines sold online. However, to attain their full potential, ePharmacies need to overcome these hurdles by implementing proper regulations, enhancing security measures, and expanding their reach and payment options.

Until these challenges are overcome, ePharmacy will continue to face limitations in its growth and impact on the healthcare industry.


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