Mail-order pharmacies are increasingly gaining new market shares. In 2016, they generated sales of about 1.5 billion €. This is 12% of the OTC market and 4.5% of the total revenue of the pharmacies in Germany. The growth rates of the online segment are in the double-digit range. Until 2020 experts predict a 110% growth for the online trading of pharmaceutical products. Yet the competition between mail-order pharmacies is tough, among the top 100 online portals eight mail-order pharmacies can be found.
Mail-order pharmacies are particularly strong in the OTC field – the online prescription would support the other segments
Pharmacy market OTC in Germany
Source: iq! Managementberatung
The total market of pharmacies in Germany generated a revenue of 34.4 billion € in 2016. Thereof, 12.9 billion (or 37.5%) were generated through OTC (“over-the-counter”) products which can be purchased without prescription. Mail-order pharmacies account for about 12% of this.
10 years ago, the price fixing for OTC drugs in Germany was removed, since then mail-order pharmacies position themselves particularly in this segment, with a partly very competitive pricing. Many mail-order pharmacies now offer the shipping of prescription drugs against a prescription. An introduction of doctors’ databases and digital prescriptions with personal identification procedure (similar to iTAN in the banking sector), would further increase the competition in this field and would make it more difficult to forge prescriptions (especially private prescriptions can be copied easily).
Within the OTC segment, most of the revenues of the mail-order pharmacies can be attributed to prescription free drugs (54%). This is similar to stationary pharmacies. Medical products (e.g. walker, contact lenses, syringes, etc.) however, are significantly more important in the offline field with a share in sales of 22% – online only 6%. In return, the mail-order pharmacies generate more sales with health products (e.g. dietary supplements) and cosmetics. The revenues of mail-order pharmacies increased by 17% in 2016, the ones of stationary pharmacies increased only by 1.6%.
German market of mail-order pharmacies leading in Continental Europe
Germany leads in “OTC mail order”
Compared to other markets in Continental Europe, the German market for online trading with OTC products is already further developed. In return, the growth forecasts for the other European markets are equally optimistic. However, also the German mail-order pharmacies probably will grow by more than 100% until 2020.
Doc Morris market leader in Germany
Top mail-order pharmacies in Germany
Source: iq! Managementberatung
The Dutch enterprise Doc Morris up to now now was undisputed market leader among the mail-order pharmacies in Germany. Since 2012 Doc Morris belongs to ZurRose Group, according to their own sources the biggest mail-order pharmacy in Europe. Interestingly, Doc Morris already generates a higher revenue with prescription drugs (“Rx” sales) than with OTC products. This is certainly partly due to the higher unit prices of the products.
Doc Morris revenues in Germany
Source: Zur Rose Group
The revenues in the last two years however were volatile. A clear growth tendency in the Rx segment can be recognized, a stabilization of the OTC revenues is still awaited.
The acquisition of Europe Apotheek by the, also based in the Netherlands, company shop-apotheke.com, has contributed to a shift of the market powers. Shop-apotheke.com is now trailing just after Doc Morris. However the clear focus of the listed mail-order pharmacy is on the OTC segment.
Shop-Apotheke total revenues
In the Continental European comparison, the German market for mail-order pharmacies is relatively highly developed. Nevertheless there is still a huge scope of growth potential. Within the 100 top online portals in Germany 8 mail-order pharmacies can be found. Doc Morris and shop-apotheke.com are fighting for the top spots. For the online segment the OTC field is (still) more important. 40% of the Germans nowadays already buy from mail-order pharmacies, among the 35-44 years old even almost 50%. If the legislation for online prescriptions including identification procedures becomes accepted, the significance of the online segment in the pharmacy field will continue to increase.