Online Pharmacies Continue to Grow

Online sales of prescription drugs are growing, according to a new report from comScore. In Q4 2004, 17.4 million people visited online pharmacies.

That figure represents a 14 percent increase over the same quarter a year earlier. Non-traditional pharmacy sites in the US and abroad accounted for 63 percent of those visits (10.9 million users), a dramatic increase over the 36 percent reported in Q3 2004.

Price is a driving factor for users of online pharmacies. Among users who actually purchased drugs online, the report finds nearly two-thirds reported doing so because they saved money. Forty-five percent of online pharmacy visitors indicate the purpose of their visit was price comparison. Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents say online pharmacies provide healthy competition to regular pharmacies.


Attitudes and Opinions Related to Online Pharmacies
Agree (%) Neutral (%) Disagree (%)
I am very concerned about the safety of drugs available online 54 16 30
I believe that online pharmacies are providing healthy competition to regular pharmacies 66 21 12
Some prescription drugs that have been proven effective should be available to the public despite secondary effects, under direct supervision of a healthcare professional 62 18 21
Note: Respondent base: visitors to online pharmacy sites n=315
Source: comScore Networks

“Many people are surprised at the percentage of people who are willing to trade-off drug safety for the perceived benefits buying online, such as discounts offered, convenience, privacy and the possible availability of unapproved/unprescribed drugs,” Carolina Petrini, VP of pharmaceutical solutions at comScore Networks, told ClickZ Stats.

The safety of drugs purchased online was a concern to over half (54 percent) the respondents. However 61 percent said they didn’t tell their physicians about their online drug purchase. Only 33 percent (1 in 3) were concerned about the lack of direct communication with a pharmacist.

“The health care of these individuals could be compromised if there’s no professional supervision of their drug consumption,” Petrini commented. “One can easily imagine the potential problems caused by consumers unknowingly taking drugs that don’t interact well.”

The majority of survey respondents (51 percent) believed the FDA should regulate all drugs consumed in the US, though 38 percent did indicate they would buy drugs online that weren’t FDA approved if those drugs “worked.”

“We found it interesting that even though Americans clearly appreciated the benefit of a regulatory body like the FDA, they want to maintain some degree of control over which drugs they’re allowed to take,” Petrini said. “Sixty-two percent of the respondents said that some prescription drugs that have been proven effective should be available to the public despite secondary effects, under direct supervision of a healthcare professional.”


Attitudes and Opinions Related to the FDA
Agree (%) Neutral(%) Disagree (%)
The FDA should regulate all drugs that are consumed in the U.S. 51 20 30
If I could buy drugs online that are not FDA approved but work for me, I would 38 17 45
Note: Respondent base: visitors to online pharmacy sites n=315
Source: comScore Networks

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