E-Pharmacy Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2021 - 2026)
The e-pharmacy market was valued at approximately USD 60,430.14 million in 2020, and it is expected to witness a revenue of USD 136,160.27 million in 2026, with a CAGR of 13.84% over the forecast period.
The market is expected to witness a drastic growth over the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown and travel restrictions, along with the fear of getting infected with the SARS-CoV2 virus, led to an increased dependence on online pharmacies for the purchase of both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Also, in-person doctor visits are being replaced by virtual-based teleconsultations, which results in the generation of digital prescriptions. Similarly, key players are coming up with various strategies to combat the pandemic. For instance, in March 2020, CVS Health began to implement new measures to balance the demand for the off-label use of drugs that are used in the treatment of both COVID-19 and other chronic diseases. Additionally, as the trend of non-contact delivery has been in progress, given the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for e-pharmacy has increased over the current crisis.
The growth of the e-pharmacy market is attributed to a rise in the number of internet consumers, increased access to web-based and online services, and the rising implementation of e-prescriptions in hospitals and other healthcare services.
E-prescription is the electronic prescribing technology that allows healthcare professionals to go paperless, by sending prescriptions in the digital format, instead of handwritten prescriptions. Doctors are now preferring e-prescriptions, to allow patients to get easy access to medicine with the help of e-prescriptions. Countries, like the United Kingdom, are putting more effort into the implementation of e-prescription. The NHS hospitals in England are planning to go paperless by the year 2020. This may increase the demand for e-prescription technology, rapidly, in the future. The major advantage of e-prescription is that one can easily upload their e-prescription on the e-pharmacy website and order medicine online, without any hurdle. Therefore, due to the increasing implementation of e-prescriptions, uploading the prescription online has become easy and less time-consuming. Thus, all the aforementioned factors are augmenting the growth of the market.
The over-the-counter drug segment is poised to witness lucrative growth over the forecast timeframe. Major industry trends, such as Rx to OTC switch by pharmaceutical manufacturers, a growing tendency of people toward self-medication in developing regions, and cost-saving advantage to the customers, are strongly driving the segmental growth.
The increasing patent expiration rates are resulting in switching from Rx to OTC by the companies as a counterstrategy. In February 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration converted three prescription drugs to over-the-counter drugs, which include GlaxoSmithKline's Voltaren Arthritis Pain, Alcon's Pataday Twice Daily Relief, and Once Daily Relief (olopatadine HCl ophthalmic solution/drops, 0.2%). This resulted in easy access to the mentioned drugs to the customers. Also, in the current COVID-19 pandemic, the e-pharmacy market, in particular for the OTC drugs, witnessed significant growth, as consumers are reluctant to visit clinics for minor ailments in fear of being infected by COVID-19.
Additionally, the economic benefits received from OTC drug usage are attributable to savings on drug cost and cost incurred on a clinical visit. This factor significantly attributes vertical growth in emerging economies.
North America accounts for the largest share of the studied market. This can be primarily attributed to the greater number of internet users and higher adoption of online services, which are expected to augment the growth of the market over the forecast period.
With the growing burden of COVID-19 in the United States, the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists (AAHP) has come up with the law the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (HR 748). This legislation was incorporated in the direction to encourage the consumers to depend more on OTC products for relief of self-treatable symptoms, which can be reimbursed through the pre-tax funds. Therefore, with the rising awareness of online pharmacies, it is expected that these initiatives from the government are expected to boost the adoption of online pharmacy services for the purchasing of the drugs without hassle in the United States market, which helps in the growth of the E-pharmacy market in this region.
Additionally, the growing prevalence of minor illnesses, such as flu, fever, backache, cough, and cold, increases the demand for OTC medications, and thus, the dependence on online pharmacies increases to obtain these drugs. Additionally, the ease of obtaining the medicines from the comfort of home is expected to drive the e-pharmacy market in North America, especially the United States. Also, the high concentration of market players and the incorporation of advanced technologies by key players to improvise the experience of online medicine purchase by customers are expected to drive the growth of the market in North America. For instance, in November 2020, Amazon launched an online pharmacy service in the United States for both generic and prescription medications.
The e-pharmacy market is moderately competitive with a few players currently dominating the market. The key market players of the studied market comprise CVS Health Corporation, Albertsons Companies Inc., ALTO, and Axelia Solutions (Pharmeasy), among others. These players are adopting various marketing strategies to gain a higher share in the e-pharmacy market and focusing on expanding their geographic presence, especially in developing regions that offer lucrative opportunities. For instance, in December 2020, Express Scripts Holdings introduced "Express Scripts Parachute Rx'' that offers extensive discounts on prescription medicines, with an aim to offer medications at an affordable price during the COVID-19 situation.