Wellness Web to Sell U.S. Consumers Drugs from Canada

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Wellness Web Inc., part of Online Direct Inc., by January will enable U.S. consumers to buy prescription drugs online from Canada at Canadian prices.


The move follows an approval last month by the House of Representatives that makes it legal for U.S. residents to buy medicine from abroad via mail order. Prescription drugs purchased this way have to be legal in the United States.


"I think it's going to appeal to everyone in the United States, but primarily people who are chronic sufferers, who need maintenance or an ongoing supply of drugs -- that's where the real savings come in," said David Cravit, Traverse City, MI-based CEO of Wellness Web and Online Direct.


Cravit said his online pharmacy obviously would not attract seekers of one-shot prescriptions, which can be filled at the corner drugstore.


When the site is live, visitors to wellnessweb.com will be able to sift the database for drugs and prices. They can order by mailing the original prescription to LePharmacy.com, a Montreal company that will fulfill the order.


Using the LePharmacy.com system, to which Wellness Web has exclusive distribution rights, U.S. consumers will be promised savings of 40 percent to 70 percent for prescription drugs from Canada.


The LePharmacy.com system provides the back end to wellnessweb.com. It boasts a pharmacy, licensed doctors and pharmacists and product and customer databases.


All prescriptions will be verified for authenticity or duplication and reissued by a Canadian doctor.


"The online nature of the service will be how we'll communicate with [customers]; that's how they can find forms to fill in," Cravit said. "So we're rigorously following all procedures to make sure these drugs are prescribed the same as they already have been prescribed by the U.S. doctor."


Wellness Web and LePharmacy.com, partners in this joint venture, will split revenue and costs. First-year revenue projections are set at $7 million and year-two at $15 million.


Steep costs in procuring prescription drugs for personal use has always been a hot-button issue in the United States. Wellness Web's service aims to tackle that issue head on. A survey in a recent issue of Money magazine found that more than 60 percent of the polled Americans would drive to Canada to buy prescription drugs if they lived nearer the Canadian border. Many do drive across the border because of the drugs' cost.


"Clearly, there's a demand," Cravit said. "I'm not trying to parse or analyze the forces at work, the cost of drugs and what to do about that problem. I know there's a variety of both political and economic issues involved in different proposals."


Online Direct and Wellness Web are devising their marketing plans. The media plan may include the Internet and traditional vehicles. No advertising agency has been named nor budget decided.


"We're looking at all kinds of resources," Cravit said. "It could be an ad agency, it could be a PR agency, or both. Or we could be doing some of it ourselves."


The company is confident it is filling a need, though it realizes it risks the ire of pharmaceutical giants who may be unhappy with U.S. residents looking to Canada for cheaper prescription medication.


"I think they've got to do what they've got to do," Cravit said. "The exact same drug costs so much less in Canada. Why shouldn't somebody here be able to go and buy it from that source?"


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