The pharmacy infrastructure in India needs to be improved

4 Key Challenges in the Indian Pharmacy Infrastructure and how eHealth can solve them.

The pharmaceutical industry in India is gaining pace by day and it has earned the country an important place in the global marketplace. A report by Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) says that by 2020, the third largest Indian sector by volume is expected to reach US$ 20 billion. And it makes sense because pharmacy is the second crucial face for the patients after doctor and in a country with over 1.3 billion people, this figure seems fairly achievable.
Although this state is quite impressive, the overall infrastructure of the pharma industry is yet to reach a standard level. It remains to be replete with several prevalent ill practices and the patients are at the ultimate receiving end due to this.
Here are a few major challenges that exist in the current system.

  • Most pharmacies are still acquiring drugs from the distributors instead of directly getting them from the manufacturers. While the pharmacies are not too keen on cutting down their margins, medicines continue to be costlier than what they should be due to the added commission of these distributors. This additional burden falls on the shoulder of the patient.
  • Unqualified pharmacists are one of the grave concerns existing today in the medical space. Despite a clear government instruction that there must be a pharmacist present at the pharmacy within its working hours, there are numerous instances coming into the picture where an unqualified person prescribes patients drugs based on the stated symptoms, instead of his/her medical history. Even worse, they sometimes suggest a substitute for what the doctor has prescribed. Patients, to avoid consultation charges and the high price of the prescribed drug, choose to follow the pharmacist’s suggestion. Needless to say, this often leads to disastrous results for the patients.
  • Malpractices associated with drug sales harm the pharma sector even further. Commission-based selling lures pharmacists and medical representatives and leads to the inventory of the high-margin medicines instead of what needs to be there. Moreover, medical representatives sometimes, in nexus with wholesalers, raise forged bills and purchase medicines at a discounted rate. These medicines are then supplied and stored at some other location than the hospitals where they were meant to be.
  • A large number of pharmacies follow ABC category drug system of inventory control. The A-category drugs hold high priority and have more than 70% consumption. All the life-saving drugs fall under this bucket. The B-category drugs are high-priority in critical cases and have around 20% consumption. The C-category includes the lowest priority drugs with 10% consumption. While the ABC analysis is not an inefficient practice, it is a complex and costly process. It can not predict the market and is unable to respond to the change in demand patterns.

EHealth will be a gamechanger in the pharma sector by addressing these issues.

It is going to bring about a paradigm shift in the patient-experience by enabling the pharmacies to provide unprecedented value to their customers. Let us take a look at how this is going to work.

  • Cost reduction: Through its franchises, EHealth looks to procure drugs directly from the manufacturer thus eliminating middlemen and intermediate channels in between. This will take off the third-party margin from the cost of the medicine and the overall price will come lighter to the patients. Additionally, it will help establish a transparent supply chain.
    Besides, EHealth plans to come up with various discount offers on medicines. These discounts will not be the result of offering substitute drugs but from the margin of EHealth.
    Also, customers will be able to earn loyalty points with each transaction with EHealth. They can utilise these points to pay for their health insurance premium or avail further discount on their medicines and treatment.
  • Employing pharma graduates: EHealth aims to appoint pharma graduates who are going to be available for the consultation to the customers all through the working hours of the pharmacies. These pharma graduates will be able to monitor the patient especially in a case where the patient is already on medication or under treatment. Presence of a qualified pharmacist will boost the confidence of the patients and minimise the possibility of incorrect prescription.
  • Easier inventory control: With efficient recordkeeping system, pharmacies can be more predictive of the future demands and look to manage a better inventory control, along with being able to reduce the time to address the medical needs of a patient.
  • Real-time support: People, using only a mobile phone and internet, can find the pharmacies and deals nearby and get the delivery of the medicines at their doorstep.

EHealth is a multi-faceted package with significant benefits to both pharmacies and patients. For the Indian pharma sector which is already struggling with the need for a better infrastructure and shortage of qualified pharmacists, it is going to be a much-required contribution.

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