E-pharmacies' market share remains low

Medicines. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

During the covid crisis, e-pharmacies gained popularity and their share of total pharmacy sales has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, even after the pandemic has ended. However, despite the growing popularity of in conventional pharmacies, the State Agency of Medicines (SAM) reports.

In Estonia, there are five online pharmacies: Apotheka, Südameapteek, Benu, Aptev and Azeta, which uses the Euroapteek brand since March.

E-pharmacies' market share grew quicly during the COVID-19 pandemic and the waning crisis has not caused it to a fall.

"Although it was expected that the pandemic's decline would lead to a drop in e-commerce, this pattern is not yet visible at our e-pharmacy," Enel Kolk, manager of marketing and communications at Südameapteek, told ERR.

Yekaterina Bober, pharmacist at Benu Pharmacies and manager of the Benu e-pharmacy, said that their online pharmacy did very well last year, with sales increasing by nearly one-third over the previous year.

The revenue of the online pharmacy PharmaMint, which replaced the Azeta brand with Euroapteek in March, has also increased. Comparing the fourth quarter of last year to the same period in 2021, their internet sales revenue climbed by 72 percent.

In addition to over-the-counter medicines, e-pharmacies also offer prescription medicines, over-the-counter veterinary medicines and other pharmacy products. In fact, the latter are more frequently purchased online than medicines.

Statistics from the State Agency of Medicines (SAM) indicate that the share of online sales was 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022; however, when viewed separately, the turnover of medicines accounted for 0.8 percent of the total turnover of pharmacies during this period, while the turnover of other pharmacy products accounted for 5.6 percent.

In 2021, 1.9 percent of total pharmaceutical revenue came from online pharmacies compared to 2.05 percent in the previous year.

Benu Pharmacy's experience indicates that young mothers and persons with limited mobility are the most frequent customers.

According to Kolk, internet consultations are on the rise. Their e-pharmacists counsel almost 3,000 clients per month; the service is used when people cannot immediately reach their primary care physician.

"Many people also appreciate the anonymity of e-pharmacy when buying more intimate products," Kolk said.

Dominykas Kryževičius, CEO of Euroapteek, also highlighted the benefit of e-pharmacy for the customer's privacy. "With an e-pharmacy, clients are counseled daily by an expert pharmacist, to whom they can ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking in a local drugstore," he explained.

Bober said that customers also use the online pharmacy to renew their expired prescription.

Total pharmacy turnover has grown by an average of 8 percent a year in recent decades. In 2021, the total turnover of pharmacies and branch pharmacies was €594 million. On average, an Estonian spent around €110 per year on medicines.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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