James Dudley Management

James Dudley Management

Germany and the UK share 80% of Europe’s online OTC market

Germany and the UK now share 80% of Europe’s mail order and online pharmacy market for non-prescription products worth almost €3 billion, according to a new European study* by James Dudley Management. OTC medicines account for just over a third of this market, the study adds, with other non-prescription pharmacy products the remainder.

National shares of Europe's mail order and online pharmacy market for non-prescription products worth almost 3 billion in 2015 (Source - James Dudley Management)



The bulk of online pharmacy sales in both countries are non-prescription, but each market has totally different characteristics.

While the UK accounted for nearly €1.5 billion of Europe’s mail order and online non-prescription pharmacy market in 2015, mostly with an omnichannel retailing approach, the German model with sales of over €1 billion was predominantly ‘pure play’ retailing by standalone online businesses.

With companies like Boots (Walgreens Boots Alliance) and LloydsPharmacy (Celesio McKesson) leading the way, the UK has a 45% share of the European mail order and online pharmacy market, the report says, thanks to a ‘clicks and bricks’ approach by the country’s retail pharmacy chains.

“Retail pharmacy chains have integrated online services and mobile applications into their traditional offer to provide shoppers with greater and more rapid access to the retail brand. This includes stock availability advice and display, backed by real-time inventory data and effective logistics,” observes James Dudley.

“This omnichannel approach combines the physical and digital elements of the offer along all the touch points of the retail brand,” he adds, noting that operations like Apoteket in Denmark and Poland’s Apteki Dbam o Zdrowie – I care for my Health – are developing their own approaches to multi-channel pharmacy retailing.

With a total European market share of more than a third, Germany is the largest ‘pure play’ mail order and online pharmacy market in Europe. Online firms like DocMorris – owned by Switzerland’s Zur Rose –generate over 90% of e-commerce-generated sales.

For historical reasons, related to Germany’s ban on large pharmacy chains, more than half of the German ‘pure play’ market is concentrated into two foreign-owned companies, the report notes, namely Zur Rose and Euro Apotheek Venlo (EAV) of the Netherlands with its Shop-apotheke brand.

With a turnover in excess of C400 million, it adds, Doc Morris leads the top 12 largest ‘pure play’ Internet pharmacies in Europe, which together had sales of more than €1 billion in 2015.

Germany and the UK are the most mature markets with mail order and online pharmacies holding over a 10% share of sales of non-prescription products. Austria, Norway, Poland and Sweden are classified by the report as developing markets with shares of between 4% and 10%, while entry-levels markets include Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary and the Netherlands.

The report includes a chapter contrasting the development of a prescription-based online model in the US, driven by Pharmacy Benefit Management (PBM) companies, with European online pharmacy retailing, which is largely led by non-prescription demand.

A further chapter on China notes that the world’s biggest retailer, the Alibaba Group, recently entered the online pharmacy space with the purchase of a pharmacy chain with an official online retailing licence; while wholesaler and distributor Shanghai Pharma is establishing an omnichannel pharmacy presence in the world’s fastest-growing online market through a deal with Alibaba rival, Jingdong Mall.

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