Leveraging Online Pharmacies to Revolutionize Selfcare in Kenya
Innovations in the health selfcare space are rapidly gaining momentum and could bring in major changes in the concept and implementation of the self-care narrative. For a long time, brick and mortar(community-based) pharmacies have provided convenience and accessibility to selfcare products such as condoms, emergency contraceptives, water products among others. Importantly, over the counter sale of these self-care products has also given buyers the opportunity to ask crucial questions on product usage before purchase and usage. This has made accessibility to the various available self-care products and information easy, convenient and opportune. In the absence of this, the information and products would require one to visit a nearby healthcare facility amidst long queues and unmotivated health workers.
Leveraging technological discoveries in the selfcare space provides the platform to further accelerate access to information and products. The availability of self-care products through online platforms is taking shape in Kenya with online pharmacies investing resources and strategies including taking prescriptions and orders via WhatsApp to actualize this vision. It is envisioned that the sale of self-care products through online platforms will offer buyers the most anonymous experiences such as privacy and confidentiality during the purchase moments. Subsequently, buyers will be able to access information on product availability, handling and usage without travelling to the physical pharmacies. The cost of traveling and time consumed at the physical pharmacies could be a thing of the past if this is embraced by majority. Buyers also have opportunity to make inquiries about product specifications and price before deciding on whether or not to purchase the product.
Population Services Kenya (PS Kenya) in partnership with National AIDs and STIs Control Program (NASCOP) is currently collaborating with two online pharmacies, MyDawa and Goodlife Pharmacies, to strengthen the markets for HIV Self Testing (HIVST) kits and Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) products through e-commerce. These pharmacies are qualified and mandated to sell both locally and internationally prequalified health products. This collaborative work is envisioned to enable clients to purchase variety of products from the online pharmacies without necessarily visiting the physical pharmacy. Preliminary reports from this partnership indicate that the online pharmacies are selling increasing amounts of selfcare products through their automated online platforms. However, there are expectations that these numbers could rise higher in the wake of demand creation activities which are set to kick off in the coming days.
In the month of May, MyDawa Pharmacies reported sales of 500 World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified HIVST kits which includes Mylan, Surecheck, Insti and Oraquick against 499 kits sold in the month of June. Currently, the project team is building a self-care insight driven campaign that features and positions HIVST as part of a larger HIV prevention (PEP, PrEP and condoms), SRH and U=U spectrum of care to be reached through social media. It is perceived that demand creation activities for the selfcare products have massive potential in generating and promoting sales for such products. This is yet to be witnessed in Kenya with the upcoming demand creation drive. If this is anything to go by, the future of selfcare looks bright when leveraged on innovations such as sales through online pharmacies with adequate demand creation in place. The table below illustrates the sale of HIVST kits for the month of June by kit types.