Consumers Interested in Buying Medical Supplies Online

What began as researching health issues on the Internet has rapidly evolved into an interest in purchasing medication and other medical supplies online, meaning important opportunities for marketers are presenting themselves, according to research by Cyber Dialogue.

The “Cybercitizen Health” is an ongoing program of research by Cyber Dialogue that looks at the online healthcare market. VirTu, a company that creates Internet marketing solutions for firms targeting the over-50 market, is a charter sponsor of the research.

“This study indicates that 23 percent of all adults online reported interest in purchasing prescription drugs online,” said Joe Barone, chairman of VirTu.

The biggest barrier to online purchasing of prescription drugs has been a lack of acceptance by insurance companies, according to Barone, but the recent buyout of soma.com by CVS, which already has arrangements with most large insurers will help to clear this barrier.

The research found that 22.3 percent of all adults online relied on the Web for health information.

“This interest in online purchasing of prescriptions and other medical supplies is a logical outgrowth of the overall interest in using the Internet to research healthy issues,” Barone said. “E-commerce is an ideal venue for health-related products, particularly for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. We know that more than half of these ‘health content users’ are looking for information on diseases. It only makes sense that they want to purchase medication online.”

In other categories of medical supplies, the study found that 18 percent of adults are interested in purchasing over-the-counter drugs, 23 percent in vitamins and supplements, and 20 percent in purchasing other medical supplies. The interest in purchasing medical supplies online is even greater among people who browse the Web for health content (see table).

Interest in Purchasing Medical Supplies Online
All Internet Users Internet Users Using Web
for Health Content
Prescription drugs 23% 30%
Over-the-counter drugs 18% 23%
Vitamins and supplements 23% 33%
Other medical supplies 20% 30%
Source: Cyber Dialogue

The survey also found that persons 50 and older show “noteworthy” interest in purchasing medical drugs and supplies online, with the percentage of interest in this age group equal or greater than among young adults.

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