E-Pharmacies: A Long-Term SolutionBy Miriam Bello | Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:20
The e-commerce sector is one of the least damaged from the COVID-19 pandemic. On the contrary, businesses that have adapted their practices to a digital platform are less likely to face the collateral damage this pandemic might bring. E-commerce, combined with healthcare products, seems a successful mix for a business during a global pandemic and it also offers a useful tool to patients.
A recent report by Research and Markets shows the online pharmacy market in Europe is expected to grow at a CAGR of 14 percent between 2019 and 2025. Europe has made an effort to making online pharmacies or e-pharmacies a safe and regulated method of purchase due to the potential growth it projects and the people it targets, mostly elderly people. The report also exposes how e-pharmacies promote the use of e-prescriptions and highlights the need of having a proper regulation for this kind of sales.
Regulatory processes for e-pharmacies need to be as strict as traditional OTC pharmacies. In Europe, it will depend on the country and in the US, regulations change depending on the state. In fact, a segmented market penetration for e-pharmacies is common, which is why many countries apply different regulatory conditions.
The delicate nature of this market made the NHS publish a report explaining the dangers related to it and also offering an electronic prescription option, which is commonly used in Germany). If doctors choose a different prescription method, this must be sent to the pharmacy first before receiving the medicine.
In Mexico, pharmacies have become a first point of contact for patients after doctor consultations became mandatory to get antibiotics. Self-medication and antimicrobial resistance on Mexicans were common, so regulatory measures had to be enforced. The local e-pharmacy counts strong OTC players, such as Farmacias Benavides or Farmacias del Ahorro. In the country, the most trusted e-pharmacies are the ones that have a physical store, as this ensures companies follow the proper regulations and work with certified providers of medicine such as FANASA or FESA.
Mexican authorities are already taking action to prevent many fake websites that would not send medicine or send piracy and cloned products. COFEPRIS has said it suspends around 669 pages per year and that it has allied with Ebay, Mercado Libre and Facebook to detect fake providers quickly.
Authorities have called on citizens to be careful of the sites they visit and have made it clear that COFEPRIS will make sure that advertisements on sites like Facebook are real when it comes to offering and delivering medicines to patients.
COVID-19 has opened the door for the e-pharmacies but it has also pushed authorities for clearer regulations that can make entrepreneurs dabble into this segment and make the most out of this chance that is set to transform and digitalize our daily experiences. Technological changes and innovation in the country can many times stagnate due to lack of proper regulation and in this scenario, the danger will be for patients. In times of crisis, can this be a matter of urgency for the country’s already full plate? Pharmacovigilance is also at stake due to the Mexican context and history with medication. Moreover, e-prescriptions are not a commonly mentioned subject in the country. Communication and action between entities such as ANAFARMEX and COPEFRIS will need to happen, as well as a stronger promotion for a better healthcare culture in Mexico