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Online pharmacies ‘disrupting the market’, wholesalers told

Online pharmacies “continue to disrupt and influence the market” after pandemic growth, with electronic prescriptions seeing increasing use, an analytics and clinical research company has said.

Speaking to delegates at the Healthcare Distribution Association (HDA) conference in London last week (January 25), senior director of UK market intelligence at analytics company IQVIA Chris Pilsbury said that online pharmacy’s rapid growth had disrupted the market.

He told C+D yesterday (January 30) that IQVIA had “seen a sharp uplift in the use of the electronic prescription service” (EPS) over the past three years – a change that has been “accelerated by the pandemic”.

Read more: Pharmacy2U 2021/22 financial results reveal 'dramatic' yearly increase

In October 2022, electronic prescriptions accounted for 95.7% of all prescriptions dispensed, compared to 74% in October 2019, Mr Pilsbury said.

This “growth” gave patients increased “choice and freedom as to where they [could] get their prescription dispensed, and many opted to use online pharmacies for convenience in the early days of the pandemic”, he added.

“It is clear to see that online dispensing continues to disrupt and influence the market,” Mr Pilsbury told C+D.


Major players


According to IQVIA’s calculations, “2.8% of dispensed items were dispensed online” before the pandemic in the 12 months up to October 2019, Mr Pilsbury said.

But in the 12 months to October 2022, online prescriptions “accounted for 5.7% of all items dispensed”, he added.

In the month of October alone, 5.9% of items were supplied by a distance selling pharmacy, he told C+D.

Pharmacy2U has continued to show strong growth and LloydsDirect also displayed an uplift, which has been maintained over time,” he said.

Read more: Lloydsdirect’s 24-hour Royal Mail delivery service now available across England

However, Mr Pilsbury noted that “some of this growth may be a redistribution of brick-and-mortar prescriptions to the distance selling pharmacy hub to free up capacity at a branch level”.

A graph presented by Mr Pilsbury at the HDA conference indicated that online pharmacies Pharmacy2U and LloydsDirect have seen a steady increase in the number of EPS nominations and EPS claimed items between March 2020 and November 2022.

According to IQVIA’s graph, Pharmacy2U’s EPS-claimed items were around 1.4 million in November, while LloydsDirect reached around one million.

Read more: Pharmacy2U appoints new CEO

Boots and Well’s EPS-claimed items remained below the 200,000 mark in the same time period, the graph showed.

C+D reported earlier this month that Pharmacy2U had “dramatically improved” its pre-taxation profits to £2.9 million in the financial year ending March 2022, up from just over £100,000 in 2020/21.

Meanwhile, online pharmacy PillTime announced last month that it is offering pharmacies a £10 cash incentive for every monitored dosage system (MDS) patient referred to it.




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