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Online medicine purchases gain ground in China

By Zheng Yiran | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-12 09:22

A customer receives medicines ordered online from a deliveryman in Jinhua, Zhejiang province. [Photo by Hu Xiaofei/for China Daily]

During the epidemic period, by constantly exploring distribution channels, and setting up direct purchase partnerships with domestic and foreign pharmaceutical companies, 111 Inc managed to ensure the business-side and customer-side supply of masks, COVID-19-related medicines and chronic disease medication, it said. Data from the company showed that by May last year, it had established strategic partnership with over 360 pharmaceutical enterprises.

Last February, AliHealth launched online pharmacies on Taobao and Alipay platforms, enabling patients to see a doctor online, get an e-prescription and have the medicines delivered to their homes. The service was a boon for chronic patients as they needed regular follow-ups and medicine refills. According to Ali-Health, accumulated online visitors totaled nearly 3 million within three days after the service was launched. To guarantee medicine supplies, AliHealth teamed up with nearly 50 pharmaceutical companies from home and abroad, including Sanofi, GSK, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Bayer and CSPC Pharma.

"Due to the epidemic, consumers were not able to enjoy services such as overnight delivery or 24-hour services like they used to. Medicine consumption is, however, a constant requirement and there can be no delays. Therefore, it was a challenge for online pharmacies to ensure timely deliveries," Xiang said.

In January last year, when COVID-19 hit Central China's Hubei province, delivery services were shut down. To ensure that patients in the epidemic-stricken area had access to lifesaving medicines, 111 Inc got in touch and inked deals with express companies to ensure its medicine deliveries. A green channel was opened to ensure that medicines were delivered to patients in a timely manner.

"My family members, who were infected with the COVID-19, were desperate for medicines but could not find any purchase channels. I consulted 111 Inc's online doctor on Jan 29, and in just three days the medicines were delivered to my family in Jianli county, Jingzhou, Hubei province, solving our great urgency," said a man surnamed Liu.

Other online pharmacies also managed to resolve the delivery problems. By teaming up with JD Logistics, the logistics arm of e-commerce giant JD, JDH Online Healthcare was able to offer consumers faster medicine delivery solutions.

Data from JD showed that by the end of last year, JDH Online Healthcare had 14 special warehouses for stocking medicines. The company's online-to-offline services based on the warehouses covered 300 cities nationwide and provided services such as overnight delivery, same-day delivery, 30-minute delivery and 24/7 delivery.

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