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Mail-order prescriptions, a category that includes Internet sales, has grown from $17 billion in 2000 to almost $28 billion in 2001, with the Internet portion of that accounting for about 20 percent of the total, according to a story in The New York Times.

The NYT reports, “Forrester Research, a technology consultant, says consumers will buy $2.8 billion worth of prescription drugs online this year, as well as $900 million worth of over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. Forrester predicts that those numbers will more than double next year — to $6.7 billion for online prescription drug sales and $3.3 billion in non-prescription remedies and vitamins. They should double again in 2004, Forrester says.”

The difference between the online drug business and other e-tailing ventures, the NYT writes, is that much of this business isn’t going to pure-play sites or the Internet sites run by major chain drug companies. Rather, it is being generated by pharmacy-benefit management companies that help run health care benefits programs for insurers.

Mainstream chain drug stores aren’t competing with these companies because they don’t want to alienate them; these management companies determine what chain drug stores are used by their clients when actually picking up their medicines.
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