Complex Made Simple

Region slowly waking up to epharmacy, but globally sector’s at fever pitch

We all know about telehealth and telemedicine. Well, it’s time you meet epharmacy. Does this spell the end of your neighborhood pharmacy as we know it? Maybe but not yet.

A large number of retail pharmacists are collaborating with online portals to establish their ePharmacies.The ePharmacy market is to reach $128bn by 2023m according to Transparency Market Research.

How is the invisible pharmacy shaping up in the region?

Slow beginnings 

Saudi pharmacy chain Nahdi has implemented its e-commerce platform, bringing its line of pharmaceuticals to millions of online users

In April this year, Redbox Digital delivered Saudi’s biggest pharmacy retail chain, Nahdi, a complete omnichannel commerce experience for its customers through retail stores and digital channels, across 143 cities.

In January 2018, A new UAE pharmacy app enabled patient’s medication delivered home in under an hour at no extra service charge, according to an announcement made at Arab Health.

Dr Azad Moopen, chairman and founder of Aster DM Healthcare group, told Gulf News: “The way it will work is that when a doctor gives a prescription, the patient can upload the picture of the prescription and other verification documents like Emirates ID and health insurance (card). Our call centre will process it, get approvals, get your location so the nearest Aster pharmacy to your home is able to deliver it within 60 minutes.”

Globally, epharma spreading like a virus

Umar Afridi, cofounder and CEO of Truepill, an invisible US pharmacy, had early on studied for a dozen state pharmacy exams so that his company, which at the time had no other pharmacists on staff, could legally ship to those states.  

Afridi, 37, and his cofounder, Sid Viswanathan, 35, hope to use technology to deal with the heavily regulated pharmacy business. 

Pharmacy is a roughly $400 billion business in the US.

Truepill, which is based in San Mateo, California, shipped its first prescriptions in 2016. Last year its revenue reached $48 million, helped by the fast growth of direct-to-consumer customers like Nurx, which sells birth control, and Hims, which focuses on remedies for hair loss, and acne. 

This year Truepill could double its revenue to $100 million, as it expands its customer base beyond direct-to-consumer medications to prescriptions that treat more serious illnesses, according to Forbes.

Hims, which is valued at $1.1 billion, does thousands of orders per day and is one of Truepill’s largest customers.  

When Hims sends a prescription, it goes through electronic vetting at Truepill and then a robotic machine pulls the 1-milligram tablets from custom-made 1,000-count bottles into a small pill vial that gets labeled with Hims branding. That automation allows Truepill to work more efficiently than a traditional retail pharmacy. Its scale allows Truepill to turn over its inventory every few days and gives it the power to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers on those products.

Afridi and Viswanathan’s next step: building a nationwide network of doctors in every state that will enable their pharmacy startup to play a bigger role in the shift to telemedicine.  

Over time, Truepill figures its orders could rise from 5,000 to 10,000 per day to 100,000.

Amazon gets on the act

Amazon Pharmacy is officially here.

Until now the e-commerce giant has operated PillPack, the digital pharmacy it acquired in June 2018, as an “Amazon company.” 

According to CNN Business, the rebrand occurred mid- November this year week, and now displays the logo “PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy.”

The official merge of PillPack comes more than a year after Amazon acquired the startup for $753 million, signaling its strong dedication to providing robust healthcare services

PillPack is reportedly doing well financially, with its revenue expected to reach $1.2 billion by 2020.

Other virtual pharmacies include GoodRx and Blink Health, an app that offers discounted medications at guaranteed low prices. 

MedAdvisor

The MedAdvisor app is a revolutionary software that puts a virtual pharmacist, “Pharmacist Phil” on your device. It connects with your local pharmacy to help you take medication safely, effectively and on-time.

MedAdvisor is available in almost 60% of all Australia pharmacies which represents 12 million patients and over 70% of prescription volume in Down Under.