The game has changed. eCommerce companies are gaining licenses for wholesale pharmaceutical distribution, while consumers are pressuring for choice in how they receive life sciences and healthcare products and services. These efforts will prevail over current legislation; it is only a matter of time and it will happen very fast (take a look at this article where I give my thoughts on the main reasons driving this change).

As consumers (patients), we are already asking all the right questions. Why is it not possible for your doctor to place your prescription online and have your medication delivered direct to your home? Better still, in case you ever lose track, why not have all repeat prescription orders automatically delivered every 30 days? Why can consumers located in Germany currently order and receive pharmaceuticals from a Dutch website but not from a German website?

Necessary shifts will include local pharmacies starting to fulfill orders from warehouses, which in future will have pharmacists on site (effectively creating e-pharmacies). Amazon’s entry into the life sciences and healthcare market simply accelerates this change – more and more companies will decide to sell on Amazon to cut out a swathe of costs associated with brick-and-mortar establishments or managing owned platforms for direct-to-consumer selling.

There will still be a place for large wholesale deliveries. Mass-produced medicines will continue to be shipped worldwide. In addition, genomics and DNA profiling will increasingly enable groups of drugs to be designed for specific DNA profiles – smaller batches of this type of pharmaceutical will need to be stored and transported. Similarly, as consumer pressure grows for companies to design medication to match their specific DNA profile, more standalone items will be manufactured in customized facilities probably on a local basis with very local fulfillment.

Along with all this, there will be a profound shift in the balance of power: big hospitals chains may lose ground to pharmacies and ultimately to consumers. Like the chicken and the egg, you can’t have one without the other: customer centricity and new ownership of distribution licenses will together change the shape of life sciences and healthcare around the globe. How do you think this will unfold?

Published: April 2018

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