Online Pharmacy vs Retail Pharmacy. What do you ne...

The recent global pandemic has encouraged all of us to think and act a little differently. In the past, even the smallest affliction would see people heading to hospitals or doctor’s surgeries, but this behaviour has changed thanks to the advice given to stay away. Fear of catching a deadly disease has meant that many have sought other solutions to their health woes, one of which is to use the services of a pharmacy.

All pharmacies, whether online or retail, should be staffed by trained professionals who have a medical background. This allows them to give advice on what treatment their ailments require in order to direct you to the right product or advise you if you need to see a doctor. Pakistan’s pharmaceutical industry has over 700 licensed manufacturers with the industry worth about US$2 billion. However, almost half of the population (45%) still struggles with access to health services. An increasing number of pharmacies, whether they be retail or online, can only be a good thing.

Let’s take a look at the differences and opportunities with retail and online pharmacies.


An online pharmacy will be accessible to you at all times of day or night to order your medications. This means you can order whatever you need to get it delivered and you will be able to get it sent to an address that suits you.

If you need your medicine instantly, then it is worth stating that this won’t be possible when ordering from an online pharmacy as the order will require processing and delivering. However, it might be the case that the retail pharmacy you visit does not have the product you need and would have to order it anyway. The benefit of ordering online, the pharmacy will have access to a much more extensive inventory of medications.

Pakistan’s internet connectivity continues to grow, which means that more people than ever before have access to websites. Over 36% of the country is now online, so pharmacies which operate in this space become increasingly accessible to more customers. If you live in a remote area, do not have transport or indeed have a disability which limits your mobility, online pharmacies offer a solution that was otherwise not available. A retail pharmacy can be useful, but internet-based ones broaden the accessibility to many more patients. 

Quality of medication

It is estimated that 30% of the drugs in Pakistan’s supply chain are of sub-standard quality and could therefore cause huge problems when taken. Whilst the sale of antibiotics is regulated in Islamabad, regulation is yet to be implemented across the country as a whole so it would still be comparatively easy to fall into the trap of buying illegitimate products. Verifying the vendor online would be significantly easier than conducting the same exercise for a physical shop. Furthermore, it is likely that there would be a limited amount of pharmacy options per town or region, whereas online, you might have access to many more delivering to your address.


A retail pharmacy has significant more overheads than an internet-based one so there is a chance that products will be more expensive if purchased there. In the past, retail pharmacies have also had a captive audience as they were the only outlet to buy medications for a whole area of people. This enables pharmacy proprietors to set pricing as they saw fit and customers could have ended up paying a higher price than they ought to have.

Online pharmacies tend to have lower product costs, lower transaction costs and can sell in higher volumes therefore benefitting from economies of scale. There is no expensive real estate costs, and staffing costs might also be lower. All these savings can be passed on to the customer, meaning medication is cheaper online.

It is far easier to compare prices between online retailers too, which forces the vendors to observe competitive price points or risk losing sales. Not only does this mean that customers won’t pay more than they need to, but it also means that people who would otherwise not have been able to afford medication now can. Be aware when prices seem too good to be true though as it might be, they are uncertified products – ensure you conduct thorough background checks to be safe.


Understanding a medical condition or ailment is the key to better health, so it is crucial people educate themselves by talking to trained professionals. This is of course, very easy when in a retail pharmacy as the staff will be present for you to ask. However, limited shop hours and difficulty in getting to one might hinder these conversations, whereas online pharmacies offer different ways of interacting. You can email, speak to a trained professional on the phone or even use an online chat service which might well be available for much longer hours, and even through the night. Websites often have guidance or advice sections too, where you might find the information you need about your symptoms without having to visit a pharmacist or doctor. But if in doubt, always ensure you do speak to a professional to be sure.

This will allow more people to speak to a pharmacist or other specialist and solve any health issues. What it also offers is anonymity; if you prefer to keep your affliction private, you can do so behind the secrecy of the internet, making it much more appealing for some.

A retail pharmacy can be handy if you are in the vicinity, need your medication then and there, and it is likely they will have it in stock. But there are considerable benefits to using an online pharmacy:


  • Access to a broader range of products
  • Better pricing
  •  Advice available for longer hours
  • Anonymity
  • Ease of purchase from wherever you are
  • Delivery to a location of your choosing


It is important to ensure you use only the services of a trusted retailer, so do some research in advance to make sure you are buying legitimate products. And soon you’ll see how easy and secure it is to use an online pharmacy!

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