Huge growth in online drug sales
Updated: 2013-05-28 06:53
By Liu Jie (China Daily)
It's difficult to imagine a sector that could register a sales increase of more than three times in just one year, with insiders predicting its growth momentum to continue over the next few years or even longer.
But that is the tale of online drug sales in China.
Sales in the sector jumped to 1.65 billion yuan ($270 million) in 2012 from 440 million yuan a year earlier, according to the China E-business Research Center. The market research firm also found that web users viewed medical service and health websites twice a day on average, and there were more than 1,000 online drug retailers in 2012.
Zhang Yong, secretary-general of the China Online Pharmacy Council, said that the swift development is reasonable and is expected to continue. His council predicts that sales from drug e-businesses will hit 15 billion yuan in 2015.
He attributed the swift growth of the sector to the e-commerce boom in China, the convenience and competitive price of buying drugs online and surging demand for over-the-counter medicines and healthcare products.
"As early as 2010, online medicine purchases accounted for 30 percent of all pharmaceutical sales in the United States, while in China the figure is no more than 1 percent so far," Zhang said.
As sales increase, more and more medicine distributors and retailers are competing to enter the online drug-selling sector.
A recent survey by market research company Ipsos showed that 29 percent of respondents had purchased healthcare products online, compared with over-the-counter buyers at 19 percent, which indicated the number of online medical products buyers has grown in scale.
It also showed that the official websites of chain pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies are the main channels for over-the-counter buyers.
As for health products, in addition to the above, main channels include business-to-consumer platforms, such as Tmall and JD.com.
Big companies, both chain pharmacies and B2C websites, are playing key roles in China's drug e-commerce sector.
Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals Corp, the largest chain pharmacies operator in South China, launched its drug retailing website in August 2011. Its sales are expected to increase three times this year from more than 6 million yuan in 2012, according to website general manager Yu Jinghui.
JD.com's drug e-commerce platform was built under cooperation with domestic medicine distribution giant Jointown Pharmaceutical Group. Its turnover was nearly 100 million yuan in 2012, after a year of operations.
"Concerning drug and healthcare products, consumers focus more on safety and reliability, thus big companies are preferred," Yu said.