If you have yet to see one of the many adverts for online pharmacies, then this is a growing trend of which you may be unaware. During the last few years, the number of online pharmacies has grown rapidly, allowing customers to purchase prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs on the internet.

Online pharmacies certainly have their advantages, such as fast shipping and delivery, convenience and even pricing. But with fears over safety and regulations, could online pharmacies do to local businesses and the NHS what online shopping has done to the UK’s high streets?

Online Pharmacies are Growing in Popularity

While online pharmacies have been slow in their uptake in the UK, they are now growing in popularity, indicating that many are now moving away from traditional pharmacies and utilising online services. But it’s not just prescription drugs that are drawing customers to online pharmacies.

Many also offer a consultation service, allowing patients to book an appointment and discuss medical issues, all without having to leave their homes or take time off work. There is also no need to collect a prescription, as if a prescription is required this can be issued by the doctor electronically.

Large national beauty and drug stores have been quick to jump onto this new trend, with companies such as Lloyds Pharmacies and Superdrug already offering online appointment services. While this could help to ensure the survival of larger chains, what does this mean for small independent businesses?

Damaging Local Businesses

Online pharmacies are a worry for small local pharmaceutical businesses. This could be set to increase as in addition to large retailers moving into the online pharmacy arena, Amazon are considering expanding into this growing market.

However, there is still some apprehension among British consumers when it comes to purchasing medication online and it would appear that there is good cause. Earlier this year, the UK regulator expressed concern about online pharmacies, as the number of unlicensed businesses selling drugs online continues to grow.

As such, while the rise in online pharmacies could damage local pharmaceutical companies, until they are able to boost customer confidence and trust, it is likely that the majority of British customers are likely to continue to use traditional pharmacies.

Alleviate or Increase Pressure on the NHS?

One of the main benefits of the increasing popularity of online pharmacies is that they could reduce the strain on the NHS. As more people choosing to book appointments online, this would free up GP appointments, reducing pressure on waiting times at doctor’s surgeries across the UK.

However, there is also concern about the ease with which customers are able to purchase antibiotics online, which could lead to further antibiotic resistance among the population. This could create a major epidemic for the NHS and take up valuable resources.

Therefore, although online pharmacies offer convenience, both in terms of prescriptions and appointments, until they become more transparent and tighten regulations, traditional pharmacies and high street retailers have little to fear.

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