CHENNAI: Deciphering a doctor’s handwriting prescription is no longer merely a pharmacist’s job. With the impact of smartphones and online shopping impacting the sale of medicines as well, there are now a host of apps and online methods to get your daily doses while also possibly finding cheaper alternatives.
1mg is one such that allows you to buy medicines online, find elder care and baby care products and order for even pregnancy tests online, with the option of setting reminders and reading medical news. And with the same medication being priced differently across brands, the app also gives you the option of buying cheaper substitutes for a medicine a doctor prescribes.
When Sheetal (name changed) was prescribed with an antibiotic ‘Augmentin Duo’ a tablet manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, she was taken aback to find that a strip of 10 tablets costs around Rs 250. On running the medicine through the 1mg app, she found a host of substitutes, the cheapest of them being ‘Moxgrey-625’, priced at Rs 60, a saving of 76%. The most expensive substitute was 225% costlier.
The market price of a particular medicine usually remains the same across various online pharmacies, and the apps also insist on uploading of a prescription for drugs that cannot be sold off-the-counter.
The availability of so much information and the ability to compare prices that different doctors prescribe, along with benefits like being able to set-up appointment reminders, booking home-lab tests and ordering repeat medicines is no doubt a departure from the traditional hospital experience. And many doctors and patients believe that the trend is here too stay.
“This seems to be the way forward, like online shopping. A patient with a chronic illness like diabetes or hypertension can easily fill up stocks by ordering in advance,” says Dr Anand Ramamurthy, a city-based liver transplant surgeon. “But in case you need a medicine urgently, the best bet would probably be to call your friendly neighbourhood chemist and get the medicines immediately.”
The idea of taking substitute medicines make some people uncomfortable, as some are worried about side effects. “When I was taking an expensive medicine for blood pressure, I found a cheaper substitute and switched to that. But I experienced side effects like stomach pain; so I switched back. Later, the cost of the original medicine itself was reduced by the company,” says 64-year old Kamala, a homemaker.
“There are many companies; so it is usually difficult even for the clinician to know which one is good. I usually prescribe from 5-6 reputed companies that have long been in the field. For a lay person, it may be confusing to decide whether a tablet that costs Rs 50 is better than one that’s just Rs 15,” says Dr Anand. But rules in India for generic medicine has always been easier so that poor patients can have access to medicines they otherwise cannot afford, he adds, citing the instance of an anti-cancer drug for which a generic drug developed was a fraction of the price. “Though this had some more pronounced side effects, it was either that or nothing,” he says.
Other online apps include HealthKart Plus, NetMeds and Medidart, which also allow you to find generic substitutes and help in reducing your medical bills. These apps also allow you to place orders by uploading your prescription, and do routine shopping like feminine hygiene-care products, nutritive supplements or personal care products.
Get apps ASAP
With Apps like 1mg, you can also find doctors and book appointments. The feature is up and running for Chennai doctors
NetMeds app allows you to order ‘refills’ with just a click
Medidart has an automated medicine refill remainder system
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