With Amazon fulfilling prescriptions, how comfortable is the world with buying medicines online?

Christien PhebyContent Manager
March 25, 2021, 9:33 AM GMT+0

Amazon recently announced plans to move into the UK medicine sector – having already moved into the prescription drugs market in the United States.

But how much appetite is there for buying pharmaceutical products online?

Data from a recent YouGov survey covering 17 markets around the world indicates that over half of consumers agree that they are comfortable with the idea of fulfilling prescriptions through online retailers (55%). Agreement is at its highest in China (76%) and India (75%) where three-quarters of consumers say they are happy to buy medications on the internet – next to just 15% and 18% respectively who are not.

Among our markets with nationally representative samples (China is online rep; India national urban rep; Mexico national urban rep), the proportion who are comfortable with buying prescriptions online generally outweighs the proportion who are not by a smaller margin. In Sweden (65%) and the UAE (62%), for example, just over six in ten would be happy to purchase online medications, next to around three in ten (Sweden 28% UAE 32%) who would not. Two major outliers are France, where only a third (34%) would be comfortable fulfilling prescriptions with an online retailer and just over half (54%) would not, and in Great Britain – where Amazon are moving into the online pharmacy market – people are evenly split (45% agree; 45% disagree).

If people are comfortable with the idea in theory, in practice they may behave differently. In Great Britain, for example, just 8% use online pharmacy services, while 61% say they go to the pharmacy that’s most convenient for them (i.e. the one closest to work or home). So on the one hand, we have evidence that uptake of online pharmacies is fairly low. But, on the other hand, a major player like Amazon entering the market– one synonymous with e-commerce, and which people may be at ease using compared with a less established player – could well change things, especially at a time when working from home is encouraged and venturing outside for non-essential reasons is strongly discouraged. For reasons of convenience and safety, it may be a well-timed move.


Research was conducted in February 2021 across multiple markets. Overall regional sample sizes are between 504 (Hong Kong) and 2,251 (US). The data is weighted in to be representative of the adult (18+) population in each country individually.

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