They rely mainly on technology and lower fees to attract customers
While Jean Coutu and Pharmaprix are slow to turn the corner any internet, independent pharmacists are shop on the web only, hoping to grab valuable market share to become the “Amazon” pharmaceutical.
At POSO +, rue Ontario Est in Montreal’s south-central district, no frozen chips or pizzas for sale. That’s a big counter, some well-known brand drugs and a lab room where hundreds of prescription products are stored.
The waiting room is never busy, because it is mainly through the Internet, a mobile application and the phone that the pharmacist owner Martin Gilbert talks with his customers.
Rather than offering an ever-increasing number of beauty products or fruits and vegetables, it’s about the technology and lower fees that pharmacists like Mr. Gilbert put on.
“I wanted to make it simple for my patients. No need to wait in the store until the prescription is filled, no need to scramble to contact the pharmacist. We have systematic follow-ups, an easy-to-use online interface. And because my store is not 8,000 square feet in the city center, I can save money, “says the health care professional, also a former Olympic athlete.
POSO + opened its doors last November. To date, she has recruited 600 to 800 patients, the vast majority of whom do business with her online. She is not the first to have “home-grown” on the web first.
Legal but complex
The Ordre des pharmaciens du Québec (OPQ) is following this situation closely. “Whether the pharmacy is virtual or physical, if they meet our requirements for pharmacists, that’s fine. Regardless of its formula, the pharmacist is not exempt from his duty to advise, and to ensure that the drug does the work, “notes Manon Lambert, Executive Director of the OPQ.
Why are big brands like Jean Coutu or Pharmaprix not following suit? Both brands state that they already offer renewal online. However, you must go to a pharmacy to complete a new prescription.
“The prescription must be (delivered) personally (to) the pharmacist, or it must be received directly from the physician, by fax or telephone. The law in Quebec requires one or the other of these methods of communication, “says Marie-Claude Bacon, a spokesperson for Metro, who now owns the Jean Coutu Group.
POSO + and other online pharmacies circumvent this requirement by asking patients to send an electronic version of the prescription by logging into their personal file. But the original of the prescription, signed by the doctor, must still be sent by post.
Amazon gains ground
The announcement last June of the acquisition by the retail giant Amazon PillPack prescription pharmacy, in the United States, has taken many observers by surprise. Large US pharmacy chains lost up to 11% of their value in the stock market the next day.
Mrs. Lambert is reassuring however. “If Amazon comes to Quebec, he will have to comply with Quebec conditions. To operate a pharmacy here, you have to be a pharmacist. He will have to make partnerships with pharmacists in Quebec and respect the standards of practice of the Order, “she says.
“We had Uber, we imposed rules on them to protect the public. If (Amazon) wants to come to Quebec, he will have to submit to even more important rules (than for Uber). “