Online pharmacies are helping to lower healthcare costs in India
They are also making drugs more accessible in remote areas. But if you need a drug immediately, which is often the case, your local druggist is still the best option
of drugs,” say online players. Tandon says offline is more susceptible to manipulation and fraud. “Punjab today has an opioid crisis only because of lack of law enforcement in the offline space,” says Tandon.
But none of this is likely to immediately take away the relevance of offline druggists. In many cases, you need the drugs immediately, unlike a smartphone or a pair of jeans. That’s not something online can do. “We can’t replace what offline is doing. The arrival of Amazon and Flipkart didn’t see the extinction of offline stores. It’s the same with us,” says Netmeds’ Dadha.
The online association DHP has also decided to avoid sale of habit-forming narcotic, psychotropic drugs and painkillers. “As a selfregulated body, we have decided to not sell schedule X drugs,” says Rajiv Gulati, general secretary of DHP and founder of e-pharmacy mChemist. DHP will focus on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hypertension, diabetes, asthma, arthritis or conditions of the central nervous system. The objective is to meet the need for drugs for chronic conditions.
“I see no reason for offline retailers to feel threatened. We form such a minuscule portion of drug sales that we can play a complementary role. We are looking at making drugs more accessible. After all, it may not be profitable to set up brick-and-mortar stores in tier-3 cities or remote villages and towns,” says Gulati.