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Marketing and pricing strategies of online pharmacies

Levaggi, Rosella ; Orizio, Grazia ; Domenighini, Serena ; Bressanelli, Maura ; Schulz, Peter J. ; Zani, Claudia ; Caimi, Luigi ; Gelatti, Umberto

In: Health policy, 2009, vol. 92, no. 2-3, p. 187-196

Internet and e-commerce have profoundly changed society, the economy, and the world of health care. The web offers opportunities to improve health, but it may also represent a big health hazard since it is a basically unregulated market with very low consumer protection. In this paper we analyze marketing and pricing strategies of online pharmacies (OPs). Our analysis shows that OPs use... Plus

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    Summary
    Internet and e-commerce have profoundly changed society, the economy, and the world of health care. The web offers opportunities to improve health, but it may also represent a big health hazard since it is a basically unregulated market with very low consumer protection. In this paper we analyze marketing and pricing strategies of online pharmacies (OPs). Our analysis shows that OPs use strategies that would be more suitable for a commodity market than for drugs. These strategies differentiate according to variety (brand or generic), quality, quantity, and target group. OPs are well aware that the vacuum in the legislation allows them to reach a target of consumers that pharmacies cannot normally reach, such as those who would like to use the drug without consulting a physician (or, even worse, against the physician's advice). In this case, they usually charge a higher price, reassure the users by minimizing on the side effects, and induce them to bulk purchase through sensible price discounts. This analysis suggests that the selling of drugs via the Internet can turn into a “public health risk”, as has been pointed out by the US Food and Drug Administration.