Aggressive tactics of online pharmacies are a wake-up call

Opinion

Aggressive tactics of online pharmacies are a wake-up call

 

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of AIM, calls on the sector to come together to resist online pharmacy. 

News that Amazon has registered “Amazon Pharmacy” with the UK Intellectual Patent Office, and increasingly aggressive advertising by some online pharmacies, should act as a wake-up call to the sector.

To do nothing is to invite the demise of community pharmacies, as has occurred elsewhere in retailing. In the case of pharmacies, the impact on the country’s healthcare would be devastating. When local pharmacies disappear, the public will lose access to a level of service and expertise that cannot be delivered online.

The sector must not allow the argument to develop that online dispensing saves the NHS money. This is a myth. All pharmacies are paid in the same way from the same pot, whether they are online or located on the high street. All that will happen is that because online suppliers have a lower cost base, they will make more money – money that will be taken out of healthcare services and given to shareholders.

Delivering medicines remotely will reduce the amount of funding available to bricks and mortar pharmacies. They will cease to employ as many local, trained, skilled staff and not be able to supply the same levels of care and attention. Eventually, they will close completely. 

Pharmacies provide a wide range of professional services – that is why patients choose one pharmacy over another. As the income of pharmacies reduces, the sector will become engaged in a damaging cost reduction race to the bottom to provide fewer services.

Online pharmacists are not familiar with local doctors, unlike community pharmacists, who are in frequent communication. Pharmacists are local medicines experts, a source of professional advice and counselling. They are aware of a patient’s health history, needs and the medicines they take. 

If pharmacies are no longer there, who would the population turn to? Surely not to A&E departments and overstretched GP surgeries.

AIM will be liaising with regulators and stakeholders to highlight the advertising tactics used by some online pharmacies that are showing the profession in a bad light. We urgently seek to understand what the regulators can do to address these issues.

 

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