By Arushi Jain
With the world grieving over the death threat coronavirus pandemic for over a year now, the online pharmacies has been categorically lending essential services, and has emerged as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the lockdown driven by the worldwide epidemic. Owing to the lockdown and travel restrictions, along with the fear of contaminating the virus, it has led to an increased dependence on online pharmacies for the purchase of drugs.
In March 2020, CVS Health began to implement new measures to balance the demand for drugs that are used in the treatment of both COVID-19 and other chronic diseases. Additionally, as the inclination of contactless delivery has been in practice due to the global crisis, the demand for E-pharmacy has increased over the times. The growth of the e-pharmacy market is attributed to a rise in the number of internet users, increased access to online services, and the rising implementation of e-prescriptions in healthcare services. In Nov 2020, Amazon launched an online pharmacy service in the United States for both generic and Prescription Medications.
According to market research company Frost & Sullivan, the e-Pharmacy market in India is estimated to be around US $512 million (~INR 3,500 Crores) in 2018 and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 63% to reach US $3,657 million (~INR 25,000 Crores) by 2022.
Since the start of the virus outbreak in December 2019, the medical professionals had a humongous role to play at such critical state of affairs adopting innovative strategies to minimize the adverse impact of the pandemic. Online pharmacies have increased access, lower transaction and product costs, and greater convenience for consumers. Consumers can purchase medicines without having to visit physical pharmacies. Also, in-person doctor visits have been replaced by virtual-based teleconsultations, which results in the generation of digital prescriptions. Increasing utilization of ePrescriptions in hospitals globally has also led to the growth of this industry.
Despite being severely hit by the pandemic and facing overburdened health facilities, shortages as well as burnouts of health care professionals; pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical industries, and drug regulatory authorities have been carrying along integrated healthcare services, such as online consultations, remote diagnostics, and home-care assistance, as customers fear visiting hospitals.
As people are being encouraged to continue physical distancing measures, likely for the next few uncertain months, it won’t be surprising to see people preferring the ease and undeniable safety of medication delivery services as opposed to the risk of exposure when visiting a chemist shop.
Online pharmacies or E-pharmacies can act swiftly in public health response such as ensuring effective medicine supply system, monitoring and resolving drug shortage issues, establishing and promoting remote pharmacy services, educating about proper use of personal protective equipment, participating in clinical trials, small-scale manufacturing of sanitizers and disinfectants, and conducting drug evaluation and active surveillance. These interventions will help ease the burden on healthcare facilities during the ongoing pandemic and eventually will add value to patients and the healthcare system.
(The author is Executive Director, Stayhappi. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)