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Delhi-based policy think tank calls for govt to back e-pharmacy model

Our Bureau, New Delhi
Monday, February 12, 2024, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Delhi-based public policy think tank Empower India has called for the Centre to support the online sale of medicines and incentivise the offline pharmacy stores to sell medicines through e-commerce, in order to tap the potential of digital solutions.

K Giri, secretary general, Empower India said that the Indian healthcare sector still is dependent on the brick and mortar approach of allowing access to medicines through physical shops only. According to a report by Copenhagen Economics, 57% of respondents in the European Union who used online dispensing services believe that such access helps improve adherence to medication. Almost 80% also said that they prefer home delivery, and more than 65% of pharmacy owners from France, Italy, and Spain are willing to sell online if government restrictions on online access to prescription of medicines are lifted.

India has been established as a super power in many sectors, including space, which is known to be the bastion of few advanced nations. Expected to emerge as the third largest economy by 2030, India is one of the fastest adopters of technology (more than 1.2 billion mobile subscribers, over 10 billion monthly digital payments, and third largest startup ecosystem). While sectors like agriculture, education and retail are benefitting from the technology enabled boom, the healthcare sector is yet to make use of this untapped potential.

"In an era where digital solutions are transforming ways of living, Indian regulators must incentivize offline pharmacy stores to sell medicines through e-commerce. This will not only increase their earning but also result in access to prescribed medicines at a uniform rate for the consumers. Drawing inspiration from Europe's achievements, India can spearhead its evolution towards a more accessible and patient-centric healthcare landscape," he said.

He added, “E-pharmacy has proven to be a boon for patients globally, and India stands to gain immensely by embracing this modern healthcare solution. However, to leverage these advantages, regulatory bodies must adopt flexible policies that facilitate seamless purchasing of online medicine and prescriptions. Similar to Europe, India's policymakers should implement adaptable regulatory frameworks that promote e-pharmacy growth while safeguarding patient interests.”

India’s e-pharmacy market is expected to reach Rs. 89.47 billion by 2027, showcasing immense potential for both conventional e-commerce platforms and brick-and-mortar stores to capitalize on this burgeoning sector. E-commerce platforms are catering to consumer demands by offering a streamlined experience and end-to-end solutions that save time and provide flexibility. The availability of prescribed salt at an uniform price, convenience of ordering medicines from remote locations and arrangements for a specialist discussion (E-counsel) will be driving factors for the same.

While e-pharmacy still contributes to over 70% of the overall revenue for digital health players, there is an increased focus on building a broader digital health offering – teleconsultation, diagnostics, care packages, and surgery assistance. Still being at a nascent stage, ‘Digital Health’ can help India bridge the health divide by eliminating geographical constraints in the supply (providers) and demand (patients) construct. For instance, a customer living in the small town of Asansol can consult a pediatrician in Delhi within minutes and a customer in Kapurthala can conveniently get doorstep delivery of medicines which are unavailable in her town. Moreover, patients with physical conditions or illnesses can order medicines whenever they need with the round-the-clock access of online pharmacies, said the think tank.


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