Although the Internet is fairly new (at least to the mainstream) online shopping has grown by leaps and bounds. Now you can buy almost anything you need, from food to fishing equipment, right through your computer. Of course, this has meant that commerce has been forced to adapt to the changing consumer landscape and some industries have been scrambling to catch up with the crowd. It is no different for the pharmaceutical industry as online pharmacies appear to be popping up everywhere you turn. The prevalence of online pharmacies is a hot topic, especially when it comes to foreign-based companies selling prescription and non-prescription drugs to Americans for lower, more affordable prices. But in addition to foreign-based online pharmacies are a growing number of U.S. based companies offering medication to Americans – making it easier and more convenient to receive much needed prescription drugs.
What impact does this reality have on the drug industry in general and are the changes positive? The answer depends on what aspect of the industry you are involved in. Essentially, pharmaceutical companies who sell their products through traditional brick-and-mortar operations are worried that online pharmacies are only going to keep growing – taking a large bite out of their piece of the pie. For the most part, although the FDA and the big drug companies talk about safety issues and the legality of cross-border drug transactions, it really all comes down to money. It’s no wonder many companies, such as Pfizer, are threatening to restrict supply to Canadian pharmacies that sell discounted drugs to Americans in an effort to scare these pharmacies out of their revenue stream.
Trends do seem to point in the direction of continual growth unless something happens to dampen the excitement the online pharmaceutical industry is currently experiencing. Since the 90’s the industry has continued to flourish. For example, sales of Canadian drugs to U.S. citizens alone have skyrocketed over the billion dollar mark in the past few years and all signs point to this trend enduring. In addition, although these numbers only represent a dollar volume of 0.35% of the total annual U.S. prescription drug market, if Americans continue to use online pharmacies to fill their prescription drug needs it will have a big impact on the industry as a whole. And of course, countries such as Canada are enjoying the benefits of a large consumer base that has a reason to bring their business north. Many American online pharmacies even offer customers the option of obtaining Canadian drugs for lower prices through their sites. As you can see, people are being given more choices than ever before when it comes to buying prescription medications. Much of the power to control drug prices is slowly being taken away from the pharmaceutical companies and put into the hands of the people that matter the most – the consumers.
Organized pharmacy groups are beginning to voice concern over the practice as they see the economic consequences of such a trend, and the whole idea of drug distribution, as well as how certain goods, services and funds are transferred across the border. The main reason many people are flocking to online pharmacies is to save money. If the pharmaceutical industry wants to stay on top of things and keep customers buying the drugs they need through U.S. sources, they will need to change with the times by facilitating the introduction of more online pharmacies that cater to the U.S. market from within the U.S. They will also need to be open to more competition within the marketplace, and most importantly, make it more affordable for the average American to purchase the prescriptions they require.
It is clear that online pharmacies, both foreign and those based in the U.S., are in a position to benefit from an ever-increasing amount of business. Individually, consumers save money on drugs and can afford to put more money into the economy through other industries. Online pharmacies usually offer more choices especially in the way of generic drugs, and make it extremely easy for patients to obtain the prescription drugs they seek. Some senior citizens find it more convenient to shop online than venture out to the local pharmacy. At the same time, most people still choose to go the traditional route and buy their drugs in their own neighborhood, which still takes up the largest part of the market.
While online pharmacies are growing at an exponential rate, it will still be some time before a major shift from buying locally to buying online occurs that will drastically alter the way the pharmaceutical industry functions. In the meantime, consumers will no doubt continue to consider the options that are most economically beneficial to them.