Online drug sales win-win for hospitals and patients

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By WANG YIQING | China Daily | Updated: 2020-11-18 07:40

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The new draft supervision and management regulation on online sales of medicines introduced by the National Medical Products Administration allows for online sales of prescription drugs.

Prescription drugs refer to medicines that patients can purchase only with a medical practitioner's prescription. Hitherto, one could purchase them only at hospitals and/or pharmacies. Because of security considerations, China did not allow online sales of prescription drugs in the past.

As prescription drugs account for the bulk of the drugs people require, there had been calls for allowing their purchase online to make it convenient for patients while also easing the operational pressure on hospitals and pharmacies.

The calls became louder after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, when people with chronic diseases could not access prescription drugs because of the quarantine measures implemented to curb the spread of the virus.

The new draft allows online sales of prescription drugs so long as the electronic prescription is genuine. The regulation will create a huge retail online market for prescription drugs, enabling patients to buy their prescription drugs without leaving home while also easing the pressure on hospitals and pharmacies, which deal with a huge number of patients every day.

However, lifting the ban on online sales of medicines does not mean that the National Medical Products Administration is lowering the guard in any way, as the requirement of a prescription from a medical practitioner remains mandatory.

The draft prohibits the online sale of prescription drugs such as vaccines, blood products, anesthetics and psychoactive drugs. It also requires the third party online e-commerce platforms to establish a sound and foolproof system for the sale of prescription drugs.

The use of advanced technology and new management methods will make life more convenient for patients and society, but the supervisory bodies, retailers and online platforms should make medicine safety their priority.

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