January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Forrester Predicts Online Pharmacy Boom

Don Davis

Editor in Chief

Online pharmacy sites will use patient compliance programs to add $1.3 billion to their top lines by 2004, says a Forrester Research report. Although online demand for prescription drugs is growing, online pharmacy leaders are struggling with underdeveloped infrastructures. One reason is that many insurers limit patients to ordering drugs from a single mail-service provider to concentrate bulk-buying discounts, says Forrester. In addition, delivery delays, often increased by the time it takes to verify first-time and renewal scripts, discourage patients from ordering drugs online. Further, a fragmented regulatory system continues to cost online pharmacies resources in order to comply with divergent state regulations.

"Forrester believes that online pharmacies will rise to the challenge of selling prescription drugs online-ringing up $15 billion in sales in 2004," says Elizabeth W. Boehm, a company analyst. "To meet growing demand and capture market share, ePharmacies will build a strong foundation to deliver products and leverage compliance services that boost revenues." During the next 12 months, online pharmacies will forge stronger ties with insurance partners by integrating with insurer systems to provide the same real-time copay information that offline stores provide, it says. Online pharmacies with brick-and-mortar parents will go beyond order-entry systems and unify customers' experiences across channels. Online pharmacies also will help drive electronic prescription adoption by creating a standard interface as well as lobbying for standards across state regulations, says Forrester.

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