Some form of online pharma presence inevitable: MedPlus

Some form of online pharma presence inevitable: MedPlus

In the backdrop of pharmacy strike on October 14 to protest against sale of medicines online, the country’s leading pharmacy retail chain MedPlus Health Services Pvt Ltd Chief Operating Officer Dr Surendra Mantena feels that some form of online presence for pharma is inevitable. He spoke with Umesh M Avvannavar of Deccan Herald. Excerpts: 

Your thoughts on online sales of medicine in India?

As consumer behaviour in India and across the world shifts to online and mobile centric consumption pattern, pharmacy cannot be insulated from this wave of change. If consumers perceive this as a more convenient and more value-providing format, then there will be pressure on pharmacy retailers to cater to this demand. Whether the existing pharma players do it or some new players step in, some form of online presence for pharma is inevitable.

Are you planning to venture into online sales?

MedPlus is taking the lead to be an omni-channel retailer for medicines. Online or mobile is just another gateway for our customers to interact with us. Today, customers can place order requests through our online portal MedPlusMart.com or through our app and then go pick up the medicines from our store after showing the prescription to our pharmacist. The advantages are that they will be able to select from a much wider range of medicines in our warehouse virtually guaranteeing 100 per cent availability, spend less time in the store because the order will be packed and ready by the time they go, and save more as higher discounts are offered for online order requests.

What about the law?

Indian law neither permits or nor denies online sales specifically because the concept itself is so new.

What are the challenges faced by pharmacy stores in India?
The pharma market is highly fragmented and a lot of local and regional preferences in prescribing add to the complexity of it. Pharmacy stores can only stock a limited number of products due to cost and space limitations and hence the biggest challenge is to make the right medicines available to the customers in the right place at the right time. Since the margin structure is fixed, and the DPCO rule has added further pressure on the margins, the second challenge is maintaining profitability of stores. Since the regulatory requirements for pharmacy have changed little from the 1940s, there are rules that are irrelevant to the current practice of pharmacy and hence, a burden for the pharmacy stores to comply with.

What is the pharma industry’s expectations from the government?

Cannot speak for the pharma industry in general, but for retailers a good first step would be for the government to simplify the licencing structure and rules and regulations governing the operations of pharmacy stores while retaining the important elements that protect the patients from harm. The government should also proactively look at providing clear guidelines and rules for online sale of medicines as early as possible in order to provide clarity for all stakeholders and plan for their future.

What do you expect from the government now?

We feel that with proper guidelines and regulations in place for consumer protection, online pharmacies can add huge convenience and provide more savings to the end consumers. They can be regulated as well as if not better than physical pharmacies. Regardless of whether it is online or offline, patients will gravitate to the companies and brands that they can trust and the ones that provide them the highest value.



Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry