Drug sales peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more people became aware of their health, OTC and generics sales experienced 7 percent and 8.6 percent growth, respectively. For pharmacies, these sales translated into a 20 percent increase in new pharmacies and new tech solutions to ensure proper supply.
Marcos Pascual, Commercial Director of ANAFARMEX shared with MBN that the increasingly high demand for products drove the country’s pharmacy network to an expansion of 3,000 new points of sale. “This 20 percent increase in new pharmacies would bring our total members to 18,000 pharmacies around the country.”
During the pandemic period, ANAFARMEX has not seen any pharmacy closures. “On the contrary, across our membership, we are opening new ones in many zones, such as Chihuahua, Sonora, Veracruz, State of Mexico and Campeche.” To date, the network of private pharmacies in the country constitutes a universe of 40,000 points of sale that include franchises, self-service and independent pharmacies.
While this increasing demand meant market expansion and employment, it also brought challenges for these points of sales. “We faced increasing demand for certain of products. Manufacturers of such products would significantly increase prices based on the demand, so we created strategies to keep our offering affordable,” shared with MBN Gabriel Zavala, Commercial Executive Director of Farmacias del Ahorro.
Traditional pharmacies were not the only ones experiencing growth. E-pharmacies also had a demand peak mainly because of their contact-free services, according to Alejandro Jaime, CEO of GoFarma. “Our demand increased but so did competition because traditional pharmacies started to implement phone apps and deliveries,” Jaime added.
The market disruption brought by the pandemic also led to the creation of services like Pharmacy as a Service (PAAS) for providers to distribute medicine to their patients. PaaS is an open pharmacy API platform that allows doctors, insurers, digital prescription providers or telemedicine apps to sell medicines nationwide. Emiliano Hernandez Laos, CEO and Founder of PAAS, explained to MBN that he founded the company when he realized the gaps that existed in medicine distribution. “We are able to supply all types of medicines, from specialty to over the counter (OTC) medications, because our clients are prescription providers,” said Hernandez Laos.
Prominent industry actors are realizing the growth and change in the sales dynamics and have turned to the online market. Such is the case of Apotex that, according to Rafael Maciel, Medical Director of the company, created Apotex-Click. “It was necessary to create a different approach to ensure they we continue receiving our care. Technology has been an essential ally to achieve access to healthcare despite the challenges.”
Inevitably, digital prescriptions also experienced significant growth in demand. “With the lockdowns implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, many e-commerce pharmacies saw us as a strategic growth channel, which helped us expand our services as we began to partner with e-commerce pharmacies,” said to MBN Everardo Barojas, Director General of Prescrypto.
Retail players hesitated to adopt these technologies because the pharmacopoeia had no reference for digital prescriptions, according to Barojas. However, in December 2020, the pharmacopeia was updated to include the use of an e-signature in digital prescriptions, which led retail pharmacies to start using Prescrypto.