Grocery Exchange, Pharmacy | Big price differences online: Only one of the pharmacy giants manages to keep up


You can save significant amounts of money when you buy over-the-counter medicines online.

– This survey shows that it really pays to be a super consumer. There are large sums to be saved by checking the prices before you buy pharmacy goods, says Anne Kristin Vie, subject director in the Consumer Council.

The online newspaper Økonomi has checked the price of a number of popular goods at both the major players and smaller challengers online. Today, the Norwegian pharmacy market is dominated by three large pharmacy chains – Apotek 1, Vitusapotek and Boots, which own most of the country’s more than 900 pharmacies.

In recent years, the search for new customers has spread to online stores. In addition to the three major chains, there are several players that only sell over-the-counter drugs online.

The price difference when the value of 16 items at seven online pharmacies is checked, shows that you can save around NOK 800 on choosing the cheapest player over the most expensive one.

Check out the full price comparison further down the case.

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Price war on painkillers

The online pharmacy Farmasiet created annoyance among professionals when they dumped the prices of Paracet at NOK 10 in October. The online newspaper Økonomis’ price test shows that the prices of painkillers have come down a good deal from several players:

In the online stores of both Apotek 1, 123 Apotek, Lynx and Apotera, a standard package of Paracet 500 mg now costs around 30 kroner. At Boots and Vitusapotek, the packages cost NOK 46.9.

While Ibux costs 39 kroner at Farmasiet, a package costs around 50 kroner at the players Apotek 1, 123 Apotek, Lynx and Apotera. Boots and Vitusapotek sell Ibux for NOK 99.90.

Pinex now also costs around 29 kroner at all players except Boots and Vitusapotek, where it costs 45.90 and 44.90 kroner.

In kroner and øre, there are large differences between several individual products. Between the cheapest and most expensive, there is a difference of, for example, NOK 110.90 on the allergy tablets Zyrtec. By buying nicotine chewing gum from Nicorette at Lynx, you can save NOK 95.90 compared to a purchase at Vitusapotek. On the hair loss remedy Recrea Forte, there is NOK 73.90 between Boots and several of the other players.

See the full price comparison here:

The only one of the three major pharmacy chains that manages to keep up with the prices of the online players Apotera, Farmasiet and Lynx, is Apotek 1 – which is on a par with the challengers on most products.

– We at Apotek 1 want to be competitive both in pharmacies and online, and therefore our prices must also be adapted to the various formats, says Karina Søby Eidukaitis in Apotek 1.

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The pharmacy believes the prices should have been lower

The pharmacy comes out best from the price comparison, and is the cheapest on three of 16 tested products. In addition, the online pharmacy has the lowest price together with one or more chains of eight items. Pharmacy manager Hans Kristian Furuseth says it is not easy to operate as a player outside the three major chains.

– We have three international chains that have a 95 percent market share. These are also the wholesalers, which means that everyone else has to buy goods from them. Therefore, it is difficult to build up outside, both because of their market power, but also because of regulations, says Furuseth.

The pharmacy director believes that the purchase prices from the chains are not low enough. Nevertheless, he lowers the price of popular products such as Ibux and Paracet to levels that competitors have not yet been able to match.

– But if you get such bad purchase prices, why do you dump the price, then?

– Good question. Of course we have efficient logistics, but it is not free to send the goods home to the customers. What the pharmacy giants do with their pricing, it is difficult for me to say anything about, but we believe that our price level makes sense, says Furuseth.

Click on the image to enlarge. DAILY MANAGER: Hans Kristian Furuseth is the general manager of the online pharmacy Farmasiet.

DAILY MANAGER: Hans Kristian Furuseth is the general manager of the online pharmacy Farmasiet.
Photo: Veronica Mahiques /

– But do not you see the problematic aspects of dumping the prices of painkillers and drugs that can be addictive? Should it be a goal in itself that it should be as cheap as possible with this type of medication?

– Proper drug use is important. I think many consumers would have reacted if pharmacies had used the opposite reasoning; that drugs must be expensive to “protect” the consumer, says Furuseth and continues:

– You can not use price as a tool to achieve safe and correct drug use. Other tools work better, such as information and advice and the products. You can get it both from us and in the physical pharmacies. Other outlets such as kiosks and groceries are not allowed to inform and guide in the use of medicines.

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The Consumer Council: – Check the price!

The pharmacy giants Boots, Apotek 1 and Vitusapotek tell Nettavisen Økonomi that they notice that the competition online is tough.

– The authorities set the prices of prescription drugs, and Norway is among the cheapest in Western Europe. For other goods, we compete with a number of other industries, such as groceries, petrol stations, perfumeries and health food, says Eidukaitis in Apotek 1.

– It is clear that there is a lot of competition in the market, and that it means that you must constantly evaluate and re-evaluate your strategies to meet the customer in the best possible way, says Anne Margrethe Aldin Thune in Boots.

The Consumer Council’s director Anne Kristin Vie has read the price comparison, and points to several pitfalls she believes pharmacy customers should be aware of.

– If you shop online, you must be careful to include shipping costs in the price. The pharmacy has Paracet for ten kroner, but because you have to pay shipping, it costs 99. Alternatively, it can make you shop more than you need to avoid shipping. And it is never profitable to buy something you do not need, says Vie.

Click on the image to enlarge. Technical director Anne kristin Vie believes that pharmacy customers should be aware that the price differences can be large online.

Technical director Anne kristin Vie believes that pharmacy customers should be aware that the price differences can be large online.
Photo: John Trygve Tollefsen (Consumer Council)

She also points out that several of the products are sold in grocery stores, where it can be cheaper than at pharmacies. In addition, she thinks it is easy to believe that pharmacies are generally cheap because you find a good price on an item on offer.

– Check the price of what you should have with different competitors. For the online stores, there are separate comparison services you can use, says the subject director.

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