Medical shop owners suffer losses due to online sales of medicine
Since the advent of e-commerce platforms which sell medicines, the local chemists and pharmacists are facing losses in their business. Even after several strikes of chemists in the country against the online business of medicines, there is no effect. The online portals of pharmacies stay intact. Chemists and pharmacists in Bangalore say that their monthly customers who used to buy medicines in bulk have shifted to e-pharmacies.
Kundan Kumar, a pharmacist in Kengeri said, “I have been running this medical shop for five years, and since two years the business has decreased. Patients of BP and diabetes used to buy medicines once a month in bulk but now they have stopped coming. Customers want discounts from us, but we do not get medicines on low prices like e-pharmacies, so we cannot provide huge discounts to customers. We have done strikes against e-pharmacies twice, once in 2017 and the other in 2018, but there is no effect.”
Mr Kundan is not the only one; several other pharmacists have the same problems. Earlier, the pharmacy business was limited to local shops, and people used to visit them to buy medicines. Chemists say that it is not possible to provide medicines at a massive discount like e-pharmacies because they do not have that much margin. However, it is difficult to make customers believe it.
Bavarlal, a chemist said, “Customers who used to buy monthly from us have stopped buying medicines. I have been running my shop since ten years and have been facing losses since two to three years. Since the customers who used to buy in bulk have stopped coming, the business has gone down to 50 per cent. Customers ask for around a 20 per cent discount, but that is not possible because then there is no profit for us.”
In 2018, The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released a notification which had rules for the functioning of e-pharmacies. According to an article in The Times of India, Companies like Netmeds, 1mg, Myra, PharmEasy said that the new notification would give them more boost to establish their business well. However, the customers who buy online say that they find it cheap and easy.
Priyanka, a customer, said, “I purchase medicines online for my father. Every month I order the required medication from home, and in 2-3 days I get them. The best thing about online pharmacy websites is that they provide a huge number of discounts, which helps me in saving lot of money.”
Experts say that people prefer buying online because they find it cheap and it’s easily accessible.
Prof. T.V Narayana, President, Indian Pharmaceutical Association said, “We don’t recommend people to buy medicines online without knowing whether the pharmacies are registered as per the act. Only a registered pharmacist can provide drugs to a patient with a prescription by a registered practitioner. But when it comes online, it becomes a commodity. It is very easy for people to get medicines online. When online medication supplies come then there is no specific role of a pharmacist. All the pharmacists will be jobless.”