April 6, 2005, 12:00 AM

Despite safety concerns, more consumers are buying from online pharmacies

Although consumers say they’re concerned about the safety of buying drugs on the web, low price and convenience are driving an increase in traffic to online pharmacies, comScore Networks reports.

 

Although consumers say they’re concerned about the safety of buying drugs on the web, low price and convenience are driving an increase in traffic to online pharmacies, comScore Networks Inc. reports. It notes that traffic to pharmacy sites reached 17.4 million visitors in the fourth quarter of last year, up 14% from the prior quarter.

“A majority of online pharmacy visitors reported concerns about the safety and legality of buying drugs online, but the perception that e-commerce offers lower costs and greater convenience is weighing heavily on consumer decisions," said Bridget O`Toole, senior vice president of comScore Networks. "Given undeniable benefits to consumers in both convenience and price, online pharmacies have grown in popularity and are likely to continue to do so." ComScore based its findings on a February survey of 315 consumers who had visited online pharmacies and its analysis of traffic to more than 3,000 online pharmacies.

54% of respondents said they were very concerned about the safety of drugs available online, and 51% said that the Federal Drug Administration should regulate all drugs consumed in the U.S.

But 62% said they believe online pharmacies provide “healthy competition” to brick-and-mortar pharmacies, and 61% said they had not informed their physician of their last online purchase of a prescription drug. Only one of three respondents said they were concerned about the lack of face-to-face communication with a pharmacist.

45% said they visit online pharmacies to compare prices. And among those who have purchased drugs online, nearly two-thirds said they did so to save money. 38% said they would buy non-FDA-approved drugs online as long as the drugs were known to be effective.

The study also notes that more consumers are visiting “non-traditional” pharmacy web sites. Unlike traditional sites such as Walgreens.com and Drugstore.com, non-traditional sites don’t require an existing prescription for drug purchases. Of the 17.4 million consumers who visited online pharmacies in Q4 2004, 10.9 million, or about 63%, visited non-traditional sites, up 36% from the prior quarter, the study says. ComScore notes that more than 70% of the more than 3,000 online pharmacies in its traffic study are classified as non-traditional.

 

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