Prescription for disaster: Online pharmas struggle for sales

  • Himani Chandna, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 19, 2016 07:04 IST
E-pharmacies, which cannot sell medicines without verifying the prescriptions, are rejecting almost 5 out of 10 prescriptions daily.

A person named Damyanti Gada places an order for Folvite tablets and Evion capsules with online medicine seller, PharmEasy. The company checks the accompanying prescription: Nothing is in order. Patient details are incomplete, and the doctor who has prescribed the medicines is a homeopath.

The prescription is considered fake and the order immediately cancelled.

This is not an isolated case. HT has seen several medical prescriptions signed by veterinary surgeons, aurvedic doctors and homeopaths. In each case, the online pharmacy screened the prescriptions and rejected them – at the cost of their sales.

“It’s very disturbing to let your revenues go. The same prescription would probably go to an offline chemist and would fetch medicines easily,” complained Dharmil Sheth, co-founder of PharmEasy, an online medicines selling platform, which rejects about 45-50% of orders daily due to flawed prescriptions.

For online pharmacy start-ups that are chasing an almost $1 billion market, the struggle is to convert orders into sales. E-pharmacies, which cannot sell medicines without verifying the prescriptions, are rejecting almost 5 out of 10 prescriptions daily. According to industry body, Indian Internet Pharmacy Association (IIPA), online pharmacies lose over 40% of business every day due to prescription defects.

In several cases, customers even send pictures of the medicines they need. “Customers send us images of their tablet strips or syrup bottles or at times writing down their requirements on a piece of paper and upload it. Such orders are also rejected,” Sheth said.

It is an unequal market, he says, as they are competing with pharmacy stores. Prashant Tandon, co-founder of 1Mg, an e-pharmacy, said, “The offline pharmacy sector has completely failed to check self-medication and flow of fake prescriptions.”

To sustain the business, e-pharmacies have now started assisting customers fix appointments with doctors.

Every state Food and Drug Administration has a set of guidelines for prescriptions. For Instance: The Maharashtra FDA requires prescriptions to mention the date, doctor’s name, address, registration number, dosage and duration of medication, among other things.

The government is expected to introduce guidelines for e-pharmacies soon. The drug controller general of India, GN Singh, has told HT that the committee working on the draft for e-pharmacies ecosystem to submit the papers in the next one month.

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