May 15, 2001, 12:00 AM

Online pharmacy sales trail other retail sectors

64% of consumers polled say they haven’t purchased prescriptions online – and don’t plan to.

While e-commerce is growing fast in some retail sectors, retail pharmacy is lagging, according to a new nationwide consumer survey by AmeriSource Health Corp., a distributor of pharmaceuticals and healthcare products. Of 1,034 consumers polled, 64% said they had not purchased medications over the Internet and did not intend to do so in the future. However, 21% said that the ability to order online from a local pharmacy might be compelling enough to change their minds about buying medicines on the Internet. Other reasons consumers said might cause them to switch pharmacy purchases online included lower prices, which was cited by 20% of those surveyed; convenience and improved security, 12%; and at-home delivery of orders placed online, 10%.

Other survey findings underscored these barriers to online sales of pharmacy products and hinted at others. More than a quarter of those surveyed – 26% -- rated a convenient location as the most important factor in selecting a pharmacy. Low prices came in next at 20%, followed by “trust” and “personalized attention and service” at 15%. But among consumers 55 and older, the group that purchases the most prescription medicine, the results were different. A full 23% said that trust was their top reason for picking a pharmacy, followed by 20% who said personal attention was the key factor.

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