Reintroducing Medication Delivery – Pharmacists Express Concerns

In recent discussions regarding the delivery of prescription medication, a proposal has emerged to allow patients to order their prescribed medications online and have them delivered to their doorstep. This proposal, which would greatly benefit immobile patients, had previously been unsuccessful. The opposition came from pharmacists and most lawmakers, including those within the government.

The aim now is to revive the concept of medication delivery and, if it garners support, incorporate it into upcoming legislation awaiting approval in the Chamber of Deputies. Tom Philipp, a member of the KDU-ČSL party, reopened the debate, emphasizing that the option to order medications online should be seen as a voluntary choice rather than an obligation. According to Philipp, sitting at the computer and ordering medications as quickly as one would order milk or ice cream is far more convenient.

However, even within the government coalition, there is no unanimous agreement. Pharmacists are also against the idea. Martin Kopecký, Vice President of the Czech Chamber of Pharmacists, expressed concerns about the dominance of large pharmacy chains at the expense of smaller pharmacies. He argued that the availability of medications would be compromised if the proposal were implemented, pointing to the fact that four e-shops currently hold a 90% market share in over-the-counter medicines.

The Czech Chamber of Pharmacists issued a statement, deeming any proposals limiting or eliminating patient interaction with pharmacists unacceptable and dangerous to patients and the healthcare system. Their spokesperson, Michaela Bažantová, emphasized the vital role played by pharmacists in explaining medication usage to patients and detecting medication errors.

The debate surrounding medication delivery is not new. In 2021, former Minister of Health Adam Vojtěch (ANO) and Member of Parliament Patrik Nachera (ANO) made a similar attempt. However, the proposal was not discussed with pharmacists beforehand, and their strong objections led to its rejection. Concerns were raised about the potential strengthening of significant pharmacy chains at the expense of smaller ones. The irreplaceable professional role of pharmacists in patient care, including explaining medication usage and detecting medication errors, was underscored.

Tom Philipp clarified that the goal is not to strengthen large pharmacy chains, stating that he does not intend to harm small pharmacies, which are particularly important in smaller communities. He emphasized the need to discuss the proposal and establish conditions that allow traditional pharmacy services to coexist with medication delivery.

Support for medication delivery to patients’ homes is advocated by the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. According to Václav Krása, the chairman of the council, the main advantage lies in the potential cost savings for individuals with disabilities who are unable to visit a pharmacy. He explained that sending an assistant to pick up medications would incur higher costs than a delivery service. Additionally, individuals would be free to plan and arrange for medication delivery themselves without relying on others.

A poll among readers indicated that 55.6% of respondents purchase over-the-counter medications online, while 44.4% do not. This highlights the growing trend of online medication purchases.

Critics argue that the role of pharmacists in explaining medication usage tends to be merely formal, as instructions are often provided on the medication packaging itself. Furthermore, supporters of medication delivery assert that it makes little difference whether a relative or a courier picks up the medications, as there is no control over how the person obtained the QR code.

Tom Philipp believes reaching an agreement with pharmacists is essential before proposing further measures. However, it remains uncertain whether such an agreement can be achieved. Medication delivery on prescription is already functioning in countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom, and Denmark.