How To Sell Over-the-Counter Medicine and Prescription Drugs Online
Selling medicine online can be a profitable and safe channel if you comply with all the requirements to this legally sensitive business.
ScienceSoft can help you see clearly all the nuances and create an online pharmacy solution covering the whole pharmaceutical supply chain.
The pharmaceutical sector is not as mature as fashion or grocery in ecommerce. By comparison, the global pharmaceutical market is predicted to exceed $22 billion in online sales by the end of 2022, while the fashion ecommerce market was already worth $700 billion in 2021, and there are no signs of slowing down.
Indeed, due to strict legal regulations, pharmacies used to hold off on online transition. However, the global health crisis evoked by COVID-19 gave it a boost and prompted accelerated digitization. Like other consumer companies, pharmacies felt vulnerable due to decreased traditional footfall. Now, the prospects for offering online services seem imminent.
Alena Nikuliak, Healthcare IT Consultant at ScienceSoft, has researched the online pharmacy market:
“There is a bright future for online pharmaceutical businesses. As you see, market strengths and opportunities are prevailing.”
This high-level launch plan is focused on steps common to any pharmaceutical company that sells online. In a way, it’s a blueprint you can adapt and elaborate to get an individual business plan.
- Research all the mandatory conditions you should meet to apply for pharmacy accreditation, including staff, technologies, drug prescription processing, and medical data storage.
- Register the business, get National Association of Boards of Pharmacy accreditation, get all the required licenses.
- Plan and document all the functional requirements for a pharmacy app. At this stage, engage your technology partners to envisage all functions that users and your team will need to place and fulfill orders.
A tip from ScienceSoft: the functional portrait of pharmacies selling over-the-counter and prescription drugs will be very different. We can help you plan properly your business model before working out functional documentation.
- Plan a supplier management system to manage and onboard pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors conveniently.
- Think over delivery scenarios that you want to offer. Map order processing flow, staff and technologies involved in each scenario.
Your online pharmacy business gets a competitive edge when it offers some extra comfort to customers, something that helps them save time and get additional services relevant to them at this particular moment. Here are some ideas from ScienceSoft's ecommerce consultants who work within the healthcare industry.
Business strategy level
E-pharmacy solution level
Solution: a subscription-based model
Scheduled delivery of prescribed medicine is a great helper for people with regular medical needs, receiving long-term treatment or managing chronic diseases.
A user journey to implement unfolds as follows: a user registers on the website and submits info like payment details and the needed medical records. As an online pharmacy, you always need an original prescription to prevent its reuse, so offer users either mail or hand it over in person. Alternatively, more conveniently for your customers, you can install e-prescribing software to receive and process e-prescriptions directly from doctors.
Technically, customers don’t place orders – your team processes the prescription and chooses a medicine brand and manufacturer, taking into account the users’ medical insurance and available stock. Then, a schedule for recurrent delivery is set.
Solution #1: standard ecommerce implementation model
Best for pharmacy marketplaces
When you sell over-the-counter medicine online, you don’t have to impose strict control over prescription validity.
Following a common ecommerce logic, you need to implement proper management of a product catalog, promotions, checkout, payment, and orders. Though operating in a less regulated environment than prescription medicine, don’t distance yourself from any responsibility for medicine use – excessive or incorrect medication may cause adverse effects and be health-threatening. What we recommend:
- Give the fullest medicine description on the website: indications and precautions, ingredients, usage directions, and possible side effects.
- Set up automated restrictions for the amount of medicine to order.
Solution #2: a personalized user journey
Best for niche pharmacies
This solution is best for complementary medicine such as phytotherapy. While phytomedicines are generally sold without a prescription, their usage must be substantiated by medical reasons and regulated due to side effects.
Users register and submit medical data as the first step. During the next visit and after their records have been processed and approved, they access only the selection of medicines and the quantity prescribed for their ailment. Thus, medication misuse or overuse is reliably prevented.
Prescription + over-the-counter drugs
Solution: two user journeys
If you are planning to combine two business models, you need to send users to two completely different user journeys.
Your solution must include:
- A product catalog with items available for all users: over-the-counter medicine, wellness and beauty goods, household and pet supplies.
- Integration with an e-prescribing solution to manage prescription medication.
- A custom personal account where users can track and refill both over-the-counter and prescription orders.
Product listing (for OTC drugs)
- Product summary, recommended indications.
- Medicine ingredients.
- Detailed instructions on medicine use and warnings.
- Medicine reviews.
- Directory of health conditions to filter out the required medicines.
- Personal details (name, phone number, address, etc.).
- Doctor information.
- Medical insurance information.
- Payment method (for cases when the medication is not covered by the insurance).
- List of medication a customer takes with prescriptions.
- Accepting electronic prescriptions via an e-prescribing system.
- Accepting paper prescriptions handed in person or mailed.
- Validation of paper prescriptions with the clinic.
- Generating a full medication list for a customer.
- Proactive requests to doctors for medication renewal and automatic refills.
- Customer’s insurance plan and medication cost.
- Billing schedule at the customer's choice and a possibility to set up a fixed payment date.
- Flexible payment methods.
- Notifications on account overdue.
- Itemized order invoice available in a customer’s account and/or to an email.
- Recurring monthly delivery.
- Pausing and resuming medication delivery.
- Automated text/email notifications with the next shipment date and a tracking link.
- Tagging refrigerated medicines and sending them for temperature-safe packaging and expedited delivery.
- Delivery to a chosen personal address or a partnering pharmacy.
- User access controls implemented in internal systems where patient data is processed and stored.
- Encryption of customers’ health and personal data in transit and at rest.
- Authentication management.
If you want to provide quality service to customers who expect fast and accurate medication delivery, follow the integration recommendations suggested by ScienceSoft.
- E-prescribing system. Simplifies handing over prescriptions to a pharmacy by creating direct contact between healthcare providers and pharmacies.
- Health insurance software. Helps an online pharmacy pick out the best medication to be covered by the health insurance plan.
- E-payment systems. Depending on the systems chosen, enable payments via credit cards, e-wallets, mobile wallets.
- Supplier management system. Helps manage and track interactions with numerous pharmaceutical companies.
- Order management system. Is used to allocate orders to shipment addresses and specify shipment conditions.
- HIPAA-compliant cloud database. Ensures data security due to in-built security controls.
Given how diverse the service scope and the functionality of an online pharmacy can be, it’s hard to define the exact price range for its implementation. From ScienceSoft’s experience, $70-250K will give you a rough idea.
If your business plan is more ambitious than your current budget can afford, we encourage you not to give up on your ideas. In the development of custom digital solutions, it’s common to start with an MVP and progress to more advanced functionality in repeat agile development cycles.
We have consultants with hands-on experience in healthcare who will:
- Create and align with your requirements a complete functional specification.
- Choose the best architectural approach and programming techs.
- Plan frictionless digital user journeys.
- Outline the capabilities of modern technologies and brainstorm competitive advantages that can be won.
- List security controls needed for HIPAA compliance.
- Provide you with time and cost estimations, and agree on project milestones.
A project team of solution architects, software developers, and testing engineers, under the leadership of a project manager, will:
- Create UX and UI for a user-facing app.
- Unfold the development of a custom solution, regularly report on the project progress, and inform on the risks, if any.
- Integrate the solution with third-party systems for supply chain automation.
- Launch the solution after thorough testing of its performance and adherence to the specification.
- Provide after-launch support (on average 1-3 months).
Digital Healthcare Solutions Provided by ScienceSoft
A solution to sell medical supplies and equipment
- A user-friendly app to showcase and sell goods.
- Automated back-office processes.
- Convenient management of inventory sourced from multiple pharma manufacturers.
- HIPAA compliance.
- Telemedicine apps for a number of healthcare fields, like primary care, nursing care and many more.
- Apps enabling online appointment booking, video communication.
- Integration with EHR.
- HIPAA compliance.
- Patient personal and health data.
- Online appointment and the history of previous visits.
- Patient-doctor communication.
- Online payment.
- HIPAA compliance.