Mandatory delivery service 2020? – The business of drug delivery

The mail order business scores with customers because it is convenient. Pharmacies could do the same. Foto: unsplash user: lunarts

Tec4med was at the expopharm2019 in Düsseldorf. The company was also among the 500 exhibitors and was able to exhibit the NelumBox to around 30.000 trade visitors on four days. expopharm has established itself as the leading trade fair in the pharmacy sector. In addition to market leaders, the exhibitors also include numerous smaller companies. Thus innovative medicines, clinical studies, soft & hardware products, and services are presented.

The fair is regarded as the international meeting place for the exchange of industry-specific information. The most relevant topics for pharmacists will not only be discussed at the Deutscher Apotheker Tag, which takes place parallelly but also at the companies’ information booths:

The “Gesetz zur Stärkung der Vor-Ort Apotheke” (law to strengthen the on-site pharmacy), in particular, is continuously generating new discussions among pharmacists and the government. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to preserve and protect pharmacies, but also clearly points out necessary changes to withstand the competitive pressure from mail-order companies. Thus the courier service is to be converted from the exception based to the partly obligatory service.

In the future, delivery by the courier service of the pharmacies is to be permitted at the customer’s request. This approach is currently prohibited by the Apothekerbetriebsordnung (ApBetrO) (law for the pharmacies operating regulations). Even though many customers already take this service for granted, it is a purely voluntary offer from their pharmacy. For example, in the case of bedridden customers or medicines not in stock, the delivery option can be requested.

The consultation may not be left behind despite the delivery service

In contrast to online pharmacies, the delivery of medicines by the courier service may only be carried out by qualified personnel. For example, the prescription issued by the doctor must be available when the drugs are handed over. Since this takes place with the delivery at the front door, a specialist is necessary at this point. Only she may check and countersign the prescription to finally hand over the drugs. That is primarily intended to prevent confusion and the resulting additional expenditure.

The electronic prescription provides a remedy

An alternative could be a system using an e-recipe or an app. The data could be transferred electronically and directly to the desired pharmacy right after visiting the doctor’s office. The option of a messenger service could then be selected and, in theory, delivery could also be made without qualified personnel, since the consultation has already been carried out by the doctor. The representatives of the individual federal states pleaded for this in a meeting of the Bundesrat.

pharmacist selling drugs
Advantage of the pharmacy is the proximity to the customer.

Online mail-order companies in advance

But why all of this at all? Can’t the courier exist as a voluntary service of the pharmacy only in exceptional cases? Well – since the peak in 2005 (21.592 pharmacies) the number of on-site pharmacies has fallen steadily (only 19.748 pharmacies at the end of 2017).

It is precisely in the rural regions of Germany, where the decline in pharmacies is most noticeable. Medical practices in rural areas are closing and moving to the next town. That, in turn, is reflected in the decreasing number of pharmacies in rural areas. Although medical care in Germany is by no means endangered (one pharmacy provides an average of 4.000 people), demographics in the pharmacy sector are also showing a steadily rising average age with a lack of young talent. Rural pharmacies must accordingly offer alternatives to have a chance of survival.

The decreasing number of pharmacies is, of course, due to a variety of reasons, so the increasing market share of the online mail-order business also plays a serious role. More and more people are ordering their OTC and even Rx drugs online because the mail-order companies are enticing with discounts and the uncomplicated delivery to their home.

Pharmacists should seize the opportunity

Now it is up to the local pharmacists to assert themselves. With the help of the delivery service, customers can be offered a similarly uncomplicated delivery right to their doorstep with a decisive advantage: The pharmacy remains tangible for the customer as an individual consultant. The proximity and personal advice of pharmacists to their customers are what online retailers cannot achieve.

The correct handling of sensitive drugs in the delivery service

If a pharmacist decides to expand his courier service with the upcoming change in the law, he still faces some challenges. The standard service does, not only, mean an additional expenditure, but also the employment of other resources. These could include the hiring of new employees and increased costs due to the purchase of delivery vehicles.

Besides, every third newly approved drug requires the cold chain. The challenge in handling such sensitive medicines lies in the fact that the correct cooling temperature must never be undercut or exceeded.

A costly process is, therefore, pending before the delivery of medicines requiring the cold chain. Passive coolers are equipped with preconditioned PCMs which maintain the desired temperature over a more extended period. These first must be cooled down in freezers, which can take several hours — a very time-consuming process consisting of many steps.

The advantage of pharmacies to online mail-order companies

The online giants quickly reach their limits, especially when it comes to shipping drugs requiring the cold chain. Sending such medicines is not easy. The temperature ranges (usually +2° C to +8° C or +15°C to +25°C) must be strictly adhered, otherwise the medicines could lose their effect.

That transport becomes increasingly tricky in the more and more hotter summer months. The drugs are often dispatched after the order by the usual parcel services. It is not for nothing that one reads of random experiments, which showed that drugs were delivered to the customers unusably. Unfortunately, the same legal principles regarding Good Distribution Practice still do not apply to online pharmacies, delivery services, and on-site pharmacies. But here, too, adjustments are to be made in the future.

pharmacist holdet tablet
Pharmacists who move with the times remain competitive.

The last step into the near future

Pharmacists will face many changes in the upcoming years. The electronic prescription, GDP conformity and the conversion of the delivery services to a standard offer are only a few. It is important to place oneself open to future challenges and not to cross the arms to insist on the old behavior. Pharmacists, who adjust themselves early to the changes can advertise right from the beginning with the exclusive service of their pharmacy and so provide an advantage.

Delivery services can enable a better relationship with the customer and provide serious competition to online pharmacies. Lots of this can come from the right cooling solution, which brings sensitive drugs safely and reliably to customers’ homes, recording and tracking the relevant data.

Complex packing processes for passive cooling solutions or a safe cooling at the touch of a button – you decide. If you would like to learn more about active cooling solutions and their benefits, please do not hesitate to contact us using the form below.