How possible is the dispensing of prescription drugs from Romanian online pharmacies

Almost a third of European citizens would like to obtain their prescription drugs including from online pharmacies. It is the result of a study carried out by the consulting firm Copenhagen Economics, present in four European countries. How good this idea is, what would be the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing medicines online, but also how much such a law would suit us, Romanians, were explained to us by Florina Boniface, the general secretary of the College of Pharmacists, and Dr. Sandra Alexiu, president of the Association of Family Doctors Bucharest – Ilfov.

In Romania, the law does not allow the online purchase of prescription drugs. Photo source: archive

The report, published by Copenhagen Economics and commissioned by the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacy (ASOP EU), shows that online access to prescription drugs remains uneven across European Union countries. Only 8 of the member states allow such online services. These are Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, the Netherlands and Sweden. In this country, for example, 56% of patients have already resorted to this way of purchasing treatments.

On the other hand, in the other 19 states, including Romania, patients face restrictions. National legislation requires the dispensing of prescription drugs only in physical pharmacies. It is also why 31% of study participants said they would like to revisit the legislation.

“Such a law would stop drug abuse”

The researchers point out that the timely administration of medicines is an essential aspect in the treatment of chronic diseases. However, there are many patients who do not follow the doctor's instructions. The reasons? The people participating in the study stated that there are several reasons. Some medicines cannot be found or are very difficult to find, people simply forget to stock up in time, others even said that they did not have time to go to the pharmacy. All these cited reasons would no longer stand if the patient had the possibility of purchasing online, from the comfort of his own home.

The study, entitled “Unlocking the benefits of online access to prescription drugs in the EU” comes with a clear conclusion: online purchasing would only have benefits! First of all, said those surveyed, people appreciate the convenience of shopping in front of a computer, laptop, phone, but also the fast delivery of products at home. Moreover, they said, a lot of time would be saved, access to treatments would be much faster, and the number of beneficiaries would increase. We are particularly referring to chronic patients and their carers, as well as those who live in rural areas.

We are moving towards digitization anyway. We will not be able to avoid this. Taking our medicines from online pharmacies with, of course, a prescription seems normal to me. As long as the law is followedDr. Sandra Alexiu, president of the Association of Family Doctors Bucharest – Ilfov, told “Adevărul”. “Be careful, though! We are not just talking about a law. We are talking about what such a law would entail. Pharmacies should modify their software, the way they are structured in such a way that they also receive prescriptions when you want to buy them. It wouldn't be technically impossible to put something extra in the software. There are, indeed, some costs, but it would probably be solved from the respective profits”, she also said.

Moreover, the doctor claims that such a possibility would even be welcome. “It might even be better this way. We would, in a way, stop drug abuse. A program cannot be fooled. You are required to follow some very simple and clear steps. You can't charm them. Do not tick them, do not move on, your request is not validated in the system. Basically, the software doesn't let you break the law. In the pharmacy, however, if you go physically, there is a possibility, small, but it exists, to convince the pharmacist to give you a medicine without a prescription. Online, however, you have no chance. Who to convince? A program? A software?“, the doctor asks.

“Direct interaction of the patient with the pharmacist, essential”

On the other side of the barricade is the pharmacist's voice. Florina Bonifate, the general secretary of the College of Pharmacists in Romania, explained why such a law is not in place in Romania. “First of all, it has been shown that Romanians are not so interested in online medicines, I mean those without medical prescription. The man buys his paracetamol also from the classic pharmacy. Why would they want to buy other drugs on the Internet? Second, if we're talking about prescription drugs, we don't have an IT system in place. Increased access doesn't just mean being able to pick up, but also dispense those drugs. We are not fully digitized on this side”, the specialist explained to us. .

Then, says Florina Bonifate, we have an urban and a rural Romania. And they are not as well prepared for the digital age. “And one more thing: there is no medical culture such that we can afford to take medicine like from a jukebox. Then let's not forget the fact that the direct interaction of the patient with the pharmacist is essential. The pharmacist can provide you with useful information, sound advice. Last but not least, let's also think a little about the transport of medicines that must be carried out in certain temperature conditions. How to have a courier deliver a vaccine to your door? Well, certain transport and temperature rules must be respected”, says the pharmacist.

The research was carried out through a survey of 5,000 European consumers, as well as interviews with chronic patients, pharmacies and patient associations.