It was decided to expand the list of prescription drugs that cannot be bought on the Internet.… Also in the latest version of the Distance Selling Drug Experiment Bill provides for the creation of a single register of prescription drug prescriptions… About it Izvestia was told by the Ministry of Economic Development, which is the developer of the document. The department noted that in this configuration, the Ministry of Health approved the bill… Large marketplaces are ready to join the experiment, their representatives told Izvestia. Expanding online drug sales will be convenient for consumers, but pharmacies may incur additional costs, experts warned.

Compromise option

Distance selling of OTC drugs was allowed back in the spring of 2020 amid a pandemic. However, online sale of prescription drugs is still not allowed., although the draft law on the corresponding experiment was published by the Ministry of Economic Development back in June. Its initial version was not approved by the Ministry of Health, the media wrote.

The press service of the Ministry of Economics told Izvestia that the Ministry of Health has approved the latest version of the bill on an experiment on online trade in prescription drugs… The list of drugs for which the ban on distance selling will remain is expanded. Initially, the list included only narcotic, psychotropic and alcohol-containing drugs with a volume fraction of ethyl alcohol over 25%. In the new version, the prohibited list was supplemented with potent drugs containing small amounts of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, as well as radiopharmaceutical and immunobiological drugs.

Besides, the document included a provision on the creation of a register of prescriptions for drugs, the maintenance of which will be carried out using a unified state information system in the field of healthcare (EGISZ). It should provide a centralized accounting of appointments, including registration and storage of prescriptions for medicines in the form of electronic documents, the Ministry of Economic Development specified.

Photo: TASS / Vladimir Smirnov

If the bill is adopted by the participants in the pharmacy market, a program of an experimental legal regime (EPR) for the remote sale of prescription drugs will be developed. Its specific parameters (in particular, the terms and the list of companies – subjects of EPR) will be determined when finalizing the program with the obligatory participation of the Ministry of Health, added to the Ministry of Economic Development.

The Ministry of Health confirmed to Izvestia that the Ministry is considering a pilot experiment on the remote sale of prescription drugs using EPR. The Ministry of Health is in favor of excluding a number of the above drugs from the experiment and considers it expedient to create a single register for centralized accounting of all drug prescriptions..

The press service of the government told Izvestia that the bill has not yet been submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for consideration.

Available medicines

Remote sale of prescription drugs will increase the share of e-commerce in the pharmaceutical market, CEO of DSM Group analytical company, pharmaceutical analyst Sergei Shulyak told Izvestia… The expert explained that the proposed concept is linked to an electronic prescription system, according to which pharmacies will check the authorization to purchase a drug from remote buyers. Sergei Shulyak clarified that the experiment was supposed to start in the fall, but due to the approvals of the departments, its beginning is now shifted to 2022. It is expected that the experiment in three regions – Moscow, Moscow and Belgorod regions – will last a year, he said.

The innovations will be convenient for consumers, since now most online shoppers need OTC and prescription drugs at the same time, they have to go for the latter personally., noted Sergei Shulyak. At the same time, the proposed regulation is less profitable for pharmacies, according to the analyst, in fact, they may face another quasi-tax, since regional operators (it is assumed that they should act as intermediaries between pharmacies and the registry) advocate for paid use of the prescription verification system in the amount of about 2% of the cost of the drug sold.


Photo: RIA Novosti / Maxim Bogodvid

In his opinion, the restrictions on which the Ministry of Health insists are fair and exclude almost all possible risks… Despite the expansion of the list of drugs prohibited for sale via the Internet, about 90% of prescription drugs will be available to the consumer, the expert estimated. He predicts that the permission to sell prescription drugs via the Internet will increase the share of online retail in the total sales of pharmacy chains from the current 8% to 11-12%.

Large marketplaces (Wildberries, Yandex.Market, SberMegaMarket) have expressed interest in the experiment… Yandex.Market project manager Maxim Agarev told Izvestia that the marketplace is already technologically ready for this. The inclusion of prescription drugs in the assortment will expand the possibilities of buyers – they will be able to purchase everything they need in one basket, without splitting the purchase into offline and online, said Maxim Agarev.

SberMegaMarket also sees no restrictions on participation in the project, if the criteria for the selection of sites allow it. And Wildberries notes that the remote sale of prescription drugs can increase their availability, especially in remote regions.

The managing director of Ozon (this site initiated the experiment) Sergei Belyakov, in a conversation with Izvestia, said that the bill had already been agreed upon not only by the Ministry of Health, but also by the Ministry of Justice… According to him, the current version of the document should become final, and the marketplace itself is technologically ready for the introduction of the experiment.

Izvestia sent a request to the Ministry of Justice.


Photo: RIA Novosti / Kirill Kallinikov

In the first half of 2021, the turnover of online commerce in the “pharmacy” category in the local market amounted to 7.17 billion rubles, which is 0.5% of the total turnover of e-commerce, noted the head of the Association of Internet Trade Companies (AKIT) Artem Sokolov. The Association records the growing interest of buyers in this category, however, the development of the service is now fully hampered by the inability to order online prescription drugs: according to retailers, for this reason, at the stage of forming the basket, 80% of orders “fall off”. After the remote sale of “prescriptions” is allowed, the share of online orders for drugs with delivery can be about 10% of the pharmaceutical market, as in other countries where this has long been regulated.

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