The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - SUNDAY SPECIAL -

whether the per­son un­der­goes surgery or not. In di­a­betes, asthma, and arthri­tis, drug costs can be 70-80% of treat­ment costs. “So if the drugs cost about Rs 25,000 a year, a 10-20% re­duc­tion in drug prices can re­sult in life­long sav­ings for the pa­tient,” Tan­don says. For can­cer pa­tients, price sav­ings could be as much as Rs 75,000 - Rs 3 lakh, he es­ti­mates.

On­line also pro­vides con­ve­nience. “For the el­derly and sick, an on­line de­liv­ery model is cru­cial as they might have se­ri­ous mo­bil­ity is­sues,” says Dharmil Sheth, CEO of ephar­macy Phar­mEasy.

Sheth also notes that for an off­line re­tailer, it does not make sense to stock up on ex­pen­sive drugs for rare dis­eases and ge­netic condi- tions be­cause the like­li­hood of get­ting a cus­tomer from the lo­cal­ity is low. In most such cases, doc­tors pre­scrib­ing th­ese drugs give pa­tients the man­u­fac­turer’s di­rect num­ber. On­line play­ers do not have this con­straint be­cause their mar­ket is al­most the en­tire coun­try.

On­line play­ers sup­ply to more than 22,000 pin­codes in In­dia, in­clud­ing the An­daman and Ni­co­bar is­lands and Lak­shad­weep. They use In­dia Post, and other de­liv­ery part­ners used by the likes of Flip­kart and Ama­zon, to make the de­liv­er­ies. “This has led to a dras­tic re­duc­tion in the time taken for de­liv­ery (to re­mote ar­eas). E-phar­ma­cies are now able to de­liver on the same day or within 4-5 days,” says Pradeep Dadha, CEO phar­macy Netmeds.

But can de­liv­ery costs off­set the on­line ad­van­tage, given that th­ese costs are ris­ing with the emer­gence of nu­mer­ous de­liv­ery ven­tures? “Can­cer drugs nor­mally cost be­tween Rs 15,000 and Rs 3 lakh. So a charge of Rs 50-70 for de­liv­ery is some­thing pa­tients are un­likely to crib about,” says Tan­don.

On­line play­ers also say that their model can lead to bet­ter dis­ease man­age­ment and in­crease ad­her­ence to pre­scribed treat­ment plans. “Your neigh­bour­hood store owner can’t keep call­ing a dozen peo­ple ev­ery­day to re­mind them about their in­sulin shots. But we can non-in­tru­sively send out re­minders to stock-up drugs or of e- re-fill in­jec­tion doses. Glob­ally, stud­ies have shown that dig­i­tal health­care mod­els can drive ad­her­ence,” says Tan­don. Their mo­bile apps also of­fer free diet coun­selling and dig­i­tal re­trieval of pre­scrip­tions.

The dig­i­tal trails in on­line are also pro­vid­ing greater con­fi­dence to stake­hold­ers. Many of the big­ger gen­eral in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, like Max BUPA and Apollo Mu­nich Health In­sur­ance, have started part­ner­ing with e-phar­ma­cies for their OPD (out­pa­tient de­part­ment) cov­ers be­cause of the e-billing and track­ing fa­cil­i­ties they of­fer.

“Trace­abil­ity and au­ditabil­ity will help law en­force­ment, gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion and in­sur­ance cov­er­age

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