Online Pharmacies: Sweet or Bitter Pill?
Health care is important for everyone. With the healthcare getting costlier, everyone is looking for ways to cut down on health care expenditure. One of the newer ways to cut down health care spending is to buy medicines online. It really seems a good idea to just upload the prescription & get the medication delivered at home. And it is also accompanied by great discounts. But there are some cons associated with online medicine buying phenomenon. Let’s have a look at some of the pros & cons related to online medicine buying.
- Saving on health care costs: Two-thirds of healthcare spending in India is out of pocket expenditure according to a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington. Medicine cost occupies the major chunk of this spending. A good number of discounts on each order is bingo for customers.
- Elderly patients getting regular medicine supplies: There are senior citizens who stay alone or whose caretakers are not there. These patients cannot afford to visit pharmacies & need the medicines to be delivered at their homes. Online pharmacy is a great option for them.
- On time delivery of medicines: E-commerce has created excellent logistics network in India. The delivery of items is available in the far corners of the country now. Using excellent network of logistics, online pharmacies can supply the drugs to almost every nook & corner of the country.
- Bills with taxes & invoice: Customer gets proper bills form the pharmacies. Over-the- counter medication is a big problem in India. The use of prescription & bills makes the system more transparent.
- Doctor’s prescription habits are changing: With the advent of Clinic/OPD management software, the prescriptions are getting digitized. This also provides an opportunity to integrate the health care delivery components including appointments and buying of medicines.
- Rationalization of prescriptions: As the culture of online prescriptions increasing, it can give a easy access to govt agencies to analyse the prescription patterns of Health care providers. It will further rationalize prescription habits.
- Counterfeit & spurious drugs: Since the drugs are directly reaching the consumer, it becomes tougher for the agencies to scrutinize the medicines. There may be spurious &counterfeit medications being sold online & nobody gets a clue until some tragedy happens. There may be websites which sell counterfeit drugs looking exactly like FDA-approved medicines compromising on quality and safety.
- Cheaper medicines may compromise on quality: Since there is an increasing competition in online pharmacy space, there is a speculation that the generic versions may go down in quality.
- People ordering medication are not experts: People who order the medications online are not experts. If the online pharmacy sells generic medicine B instead of Medicine A with same salt inside, the common man will not be able to identify the difference. There are medications that don’t bring effects immediately.These type of medications may be sold without knowing their efficacy.
- Cold chain, temperature & Supply chain management issues: Medicines require particular temperature & protection from sunlight requiring proper storage conditions. Also, the expiry drugs may be sold online with or without changing the dates.
- Employment generation or not? With such a huge population base of our country, the decision making has to be rational. Anything coming online will gain the rocket speed but there is always a trade-off that need to be kept in mind. Govt. needs to be proactive in taking those decisions which can generate more employment.
- Drugs misuse: There are chances that the drug abuse may result in severe health crisis due to easy availability.
- Patient data privacy concerns: The data selling is one of the upcoming business. The patient health & financial data may be captured & sold to agencies who are looking for healthcare data to make their business decisions. For example, the leakage of data of HIV, Hepatitis C patients on social media is a privacy and confidentiality concern.
- Govt regulations: Its surprising to see that regulatory agencies are yet to come up with concrete plan to regulate the online medicine market. The tussle between offline & online pharmacies is still on. There should be a well define public policy & control mechanism in place.
- Cryptocurrency & Bitcoin as mode of payment online: Businesses have started accepting cryptocurrency. The phenomenon may give rise to delivery of medications which may escape the govt routes. The danger of development of a parallel grey market cannot be side-lined. These are a few pros & cons, albeit the list is non-exhaustive. This article lists the positives & negatives of online drug selling. The future is yet to see the final results, till then keep fingers crossed.
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