Online pharmacy?Support,Oppose?

It’s interesting to see the rising number of online pharmacy ads. Also online pharmacy is becoming a hot playground for many startups. And why not? when almost everything and every service is available online, why leave out such important sector. But again, the idea was particularly interesting as it was a massive deviation from the general notion of, highly sensitive , need for in-person interaction to avail healthcare in India. As such healthcare sector is extremely conservative, though with right reasons, with a highly rigid ecosystem and ways of conducting “business”.

As expected, there is a massive opposition esp. from the brick n mortar pharmacists, for obvious reasons. India witnessed a nationwide strike by the pharmacists on the 14th Oct 2015. Their argument seems quite technical and patient oriented. But considering the existing system run by them, the argument seems shallow and points to other obvious self centred commercial angle.

The concerns of the existing pharmacies are abuse of drugs, fake prescriptions & illegality. Firstly, these concerns are already very widespread in India. And its a common knowledge that pharmacies in India is often a “ quick local dispensary”, which more than readily prescribes drugs. It is extremely rare that a pharmacy insists for doctors’ prescriptions on schedule H drugs, or any of its likes. In fact, the major factors of drugs abuse probably go beyond the pharmacies. The biggest example being the rampant abuse of antibiotics and emergence of deadly resistant strains. Hence, except for contrabands, it’s pretty much a normal activity to “score” any drugs from the pharmacies. Since the importance of prescription is so low, fake prescription is hardly anybody’s concern in reality. The existing pharmacies are highly incentivised to encourage such practice. As for the illegality, its a tool of convenience and what is so legal about whats going on currently. Legality can always be sought if there is merit. Yes, there are some pharmacies that follow the rules and regulations strictly, but they are too few to make any significant effect.

So, the question really is how the online pharmacies worsen the situation( those claimed by the existing pharmacies). To which I personally dont see any. Infact, it betters the situation, atleast in terms of documentation. The real interest, I strongly suspect, of opposition to online pharmacies is reduced earning. This is again as quoted by pharmacies in general media.

As a consumer, the benefits of online pharmacies are significant ranging from convenience, availability to more importantly- options. A patient’s choice wont be restricted to a particular brand that anybody is interested to push. Being generic based, there is a significant price implication as well as general empowerment of the consumers.

However, besides the positives, there are definitely some risk which will get heightened. Most importantly, fakes and counterfeited drugs. The lack of physical visibility can surely limit a lot of pointers in choosing a seller . It also makes it easier for counterfeiters to blend and hide.

Hence to me, online pharmacies is a positive development, if they assure a traceable conformance of regulations and control of authenticity. But the current opposition to online pharmacies seems hollow and misguided.

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