Stephen M. Monroe, Partner
Kathy Hammell, Editor
Phone: (800) 248-1668
Fax: (203) 846-8300
NEW CANAAN, CT – NOVEMBER 8, 2000 – Meager savings of time and money, Internet limitations and poor customer service negate the convenience of shopping online for common drugstore items, revealed an undercover consumer survey conducted by Irving Levin Associates, Inc., a research and publishing firm tracking the health care markets. The survey compares publicly traded “e-tailers” (NASDAQ: PLRX), (NASDAQ: HCEN) and (NASDAQ: DSCM) with bricks and clicks stores (NYSE: CVS) and (NYSE: WAG) and privately owned (which will soon be purchased by on a standardized list of pharmacy items. For comparison purposes, the same purchases were made at the local CVS store. Results of the survey question the long-term viability of online pharmacies. The recent failure of other e-tailers, such as and, indicates growing problems within this sector.       
The firm purchased the same eight common drugstore items at each site to determine Web site functionality, time spent on ordering and delivery, total cost and whether e-mail confirmation was issued. Customer service was also evaluated when assistance became necessary.  All Web sites included in the survey offered similar formats, with customer registration, educational information, a shopping cart, product categories and a site search engine. Using the search engines to find specific items required the shopper to try typing in several variations of a brand or item name; results were often too few or too numerous.
Web site errors at (which is owned by and forced the user to stop shopping and try again later before an order could be processed. Calling the toll-free help lines resulted in long waiting time, followed by scant insight into a reason for the error and no solution to the problem. A discrepancy was found between the online invoice and the delivery invoice from Most of the online pharmacies offered house brand savings ( also offered several coupons), and all charged $3.50 – $4.45 for delivery in up to 5 business days. Comparatively, at the local bricks-and-mortar drugstore, consumers can purchase and walk out with the same name-brand items for only about 5% to 10% more in cost.
“We will not be returning to the online drug store arena, as a consumer, for quite some time,” concluded Stephen M. Monroe, editor of The e-Health Investor, which is published by Irving Levin Associates, Inc. “The savings do not seem to justify the time spent and the wait for up to seven days in one case. Also, if you need something like Rolaids or Robitussin today, you do not want to wait two to five business days,” continued Mr. Monroe. “For these reasons, we believe that online drug store valuations will continue to be low.”
Irving Levin Associates, Inc. is a New Canaan, CT-based research and publishing firm specializing in the health care markets. Complete results of the survey along with current investment trends and information on the e-health sector can be found in the November issue of The e-Health Investor ( To subscribe call 1-800-248-1668, or visit