Prescription drug sales statistics

Roughly 43% of US adults purchase their prescription drugs from national chain pharmacies, according to July 2021 data from CivicScience. That’s a decrease of 7 percentage points from March 2019 when CivicScience previously conducted this very survey.  

But that’s because alternatives to national chain pharmacies, including local and family-owned pharmacies, as well as online pharmacy services, have grown in popularity. 

US online prescription drug sales

More consumers are purchasing prescription drugs online. In fact, 13% of US adults surveyed this year by CivicScience said they were. That’s an increase of 3 percentage points from March 2019, and represents the rising demand for more convenient, accessible health services amid the pandemic—especially as online prescription services allow those with immunodeficiencies, physical disabilities, or in elderly care to avoid going to a store for their prescription needs. 

While more adults are leaning to online pharmacy services, the majority are still more comfortable going in-store. There are likely different factors that come into play, including the fact that some don’t fully trust online services yet, while others may not be willing to share their personal health data digitally. Safety concerns are justifiable as patient privacy breaches are surging, with close to two cyberattacks per day made on healthcare organizations and their business associates in 2020. 

Prescription drug purchasing trends

The shift towards online prescription drug sales is set to continue as new, more appealing incentives become available. Physical pharmacies, whether a national chain or something more local, have the advantage of being able to fill and deliver prescription drugs the same day the script is ordered. Online services—even ones as big as Amazon Pharmacy—need to promise faster delivery to attract more consumers and scale an already growing market. 

Expect more players to enter this space, including tech companies who are looking to claim their share of the prescription delivery market. Earlier this year, Uber ramped up its partnerships with US digital pharmacies to deliver prescriptions in 37 states; while food delivery apps expanded their services to deliver prescriptions, too. At the same time, dedicated prescription delivery start-ups such as Capsule, Alto, and Medley are offering rapid app-based delivery in less than an hour in an attempt to meet heightened consumer expectations for intuitive healthcare experiences.