Pharmacies expand online drug sales after law change

JIJI

Retail giant Aeon Co. and drugstore operator Cocokara Fine Inc. began online sales Thursday of so-called first-category over-the-counter drugs, after a pharmaceuticals law revision lifted a ban on such trade.

Drugs in this category are considered to carry a high risk of side effects. The two companies will enable buyers to consult pharmacists for online advice, as the revised law requires.

The new legislation sets rules for online sales of nonprescription drugs. More than 99 percent of such drugs are now available online. However, a face-to-face consultation at shops is still required in the case of over-the-counter drugs if they were designated as prescription drugs within the past three years.

Aeon launched online sales of around 40 first-category OTC drugs at 157 supermarkets that offer online shopping services.

“We believe we can use our strength as general merchandise stores, delivering drugs with groceries,” a spokesman said.

Ito-Yokado Co., a supermarket arm of retail giant Seven & i Holdings Co., also plans to start online sales of first-category OTC drugs by the end of the year. Cocokara Fine added 75 first-category OTC counter drugs to its lineup available for purchase at its Web site.

Kenko.com Inc., an online retailer of health-related goods under Rakuten Inc., started selling first-category drugs ahead of the enforcement of the revised pharmaceutical law, based on a Supreme Court ruling.

Kenko.com sued the state, claiming that a 2009 health ministry ordinance that restricted online sales of nonprescription drugs violated its freedom of business. It won in January 2013, with the Supreme Court ruling the ordinance illegal.