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Quality safeguards and regulation of online pharmacies

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Abstract

Using econometric evidence, this article confirms that distribution of medicines online is split into two market segments of very diverse quality, and identifies the factors that drive quality and quality assurance in this activity. Unlike fraudulent, ‘rogue,’ websites, which offer scant guarantees and usually sell just a few medicines without prescription, online pharmacies offering insurance coverage and linked to conventional pharmacies typically sell a whole range of drugs, require third-party medical prescriptions and provide abundant information to patients. It is shown that, where online pharmacies are allowed to act legally, market forces enhance quality, as private insurers require professional standards, and specialized third parties make a business of certifying them. Furthermore, older online pharmacies and those running conventional operations offer higher quality, probably because of reputational investments. Overall, this evidence supports licensing online pharmacies, especially considering that prohibiting them is ineffective against fraudulent sites.

Suggested Citation

  • Benito Arruñada, 2001. "Quality safeguards and regulation of online pharmacies," Economics Working Papers 595, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Mar 2003.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:595
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thompson, R. Steve, 1994. "The franchise life cycle and the Penrose effect," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 207-218, July.
    2. Nelson, Phillip, 1970. "Information and Consumer Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(2), pages 311-329, March-Apr.
    3. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-641, August.
    4. Darby, Michael R & Karni, Edi, 1973. "Free Competition and the Optimal Amount of Fraud," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 67-88, April.
    5. Arrunada, Benito & Garicano, Luis & Vazquez, Luis, 2001. "Contractual Allocation of Decision Rights and Incentives: The Case of Automobile Distribution," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(1), pages 257-284, April.
    6. Francine Lafontaine, 1992. "Agency Theory and Franchising: Some Empirical Results," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 23(2), pages 263-283, Summer.
    7. Carl Shapiro, 1983. "Premiums for High Quality Products as Returns to Reputations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(4), pages 659-679.
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    Cited by:

    1. Benito Arruñada, 2005. "Managing competition in professional services and the burden of inertia," Economics Working Papers 827, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    2. Ahlert, Dieter & Heidebur, S. & Michaelis, Michael, 2007. "Kaufverhaltensrelevante Effekte des Konsumentenvertrauens im Internet: Eine vergleichende Analyse von Online-Händlern," Working Papers 48, University of Münster, Competence Center Internet Economy and Hybrid Systems, European Research Center for Information Systems (ERCIS).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    E-Commerce; pharmacies; regulation; quality assurance;

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K23 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Regulated Industries and Administrative Law
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality
    • L84 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Personal, Professional, and Business Services

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