Pharmacy Needs to Go Online for Digital India
The Indian pharmaceuticals market, valued at $20 billion market in 2015, is expected to grow to $55 billion by 2020.
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Millions of Indians are downloading apps and ordering thousands of medicines online every day. Pharmacy in India is witnessing a massive revolution since the last couple of years. Is it a good thing? Well, like with most digital transformation, the answer will depend on whether you ask an enthusiast or a sceptic. But one thing is certain: Without online or e-pharmacy, Digital India cannot be a reality, in the truest sense of the term.
The Indian pharmaceuticals market, valued at $20 billion market in 2015, is expected to grow to $55 billion by 2020. As far as the discovery, development and manufacturing of drugs is concerned, India is counted among the forerunners across the globe. However, when it comes to accessibility to quality drugs for the average Indian consumer, there’s a lot to be desired.
Online pharmacies, which currently act as a marketplace for offline medical stores, have the potential to bridge this healthcare gap. Can e-pharmacy be a part of the Digital India campaign? From e-governance to e-learning, the idea of the movement, after all, is to transform the country into a digitally-empowered society.
Currently, there are about 50 online pharmacy start-ups in India, who are revolutionising the way business is done, in an industry that has been traditionally resistant to change. And the results, in less than half a decade, have been heartening.
For starters, online pharmacies are making the process of purchasing medicines not only more convenient (with on time delivery of medicines at your doorstep) and economical but also more organised and transparent. Whether it’s insisting on valid doctor’s prescription for disbursing certain drugs, or even maintaining documentation of every transaction, digitalisation of data is streamlining the distribution system and making it more quality conscious. Over a period of time, the stored consumer medical data can be useful in planning public health policies.
Apart from that, leading e-pharmacies are evolving into holistic healthcare hubs that offer access to comprehensive information as well as medical e-consultation services. In a country like India that has a dismal ratio of 0.7 doctors per 1,000 people, online consultations with doctors – for simple queries or second opinions – can be a real boon.
Need of the hour
A boon can easily turn into a bane, without adequate regulations. As of now, India doesn’t have a policy for online pharmacies. The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, and the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, only provide guidelines for selling prescription drugs in the country.
Realising the need for a comprehensive policy that governs online pharmacies in India, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) - regulator for pharmaceuticals and medical devices in India - and the health ministry are believed to have set the ball rolling. Perhaps, a list of accredited online pharmacies in India will be available in the future.
As digital literacy continues to grow and people demand transparent and economical ecosystems that deliver, traditional pharmacies that want to stay relevant will be forced to evolve and have a digital presence. In other words, inventory management systems, customer records, etc will have to get digitized; regulatory compliance will become the norm.
When pharmacy goes online and reaches the remotest corners of the country, when access to healthcare and chronic disease management become convenient, when public health policies get backed by sound data, Digital India will no longer remain just a dream.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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