Press Release 9/5/2023 - Digital Healthcare Pioneer and One of the UK’s Leading Providers of Weight Loss Medication, Simple Online Pharmacy, Reports Another Year of Strong Growth
Simple Online Healthcare Group, which trades as Simple Online Pharmacy in the UK, released annual results today augmenting its position at the forefront of the UK’s emerging digital healthcare market. The online pharmacy specialist, which has not received any external funding or debt to date reported, revenues of over £24 million to 28th February 2023, delivering annual revenue growth of 55%.
With 1 billion health related searches happening every day on google and 35% of global internet users saying that they research health issues and healthcare products on the web (DataReportal), the digital health market is predicted to grow to $657 bn by 2025, up from $175 bn in 2019 (Statista). Digital Pharmacy is one of the largest growth areas, estimated at £79bn global market value in 2022 (GMI).
Founded in 2015 by local community pharmacists Addy Mohammed and Karim Nassar, having identified a need in the market for a patient-first, online healthcare service delivering medications direct to consumers quickly and conveniently. Simple Online Pharmacy provides a digital doctor service, an online pharmacy shop, and a free delivery service for NHS England patients who require their medications to be organised into medication pouches. These pouches, known as compliance aids, assist with medication adherence and minimise dosing errors.
As a pioneer in digital healthcare, Simple Online Pharmacy has combined pharmacist expertise, community pharmacy insight and innovative pouch robotic technology and is rated as “excellent” on Trustpilot.
With NHS primary care services under unrelenting pressure, Simple Online Pharmacy’s affordable and convenient private online doctor service is increasingly being used by patients to get fast and effective treatment for low risk ailments that they would previously have had to see their GP to obtain medication for. Many patients prefer to pay a little more for medication (the pricing includes review by a UK registered prescriber) rather than waiting days or even weeks for a GP appointment, during which time their condition may have worsened, as these quotes from patients leaving Trustpilot reviews for Simple Online Pharmacy show:
“I would have had to wait in the GP surgery to be seen (often over 20 mins as they are very busy). Just for them to spend a few minutes repeating the prescription. Everything arrived by post in the time it would have taken me to even get an appointment so now that appointment can go to someone who needs it more. “
“Will be definitely using again as I have no time to sit hours and hours on the phone, day after day, to get a GP appointment when I know exactly what I need”
“The cost over an NHS prescription EASILY recouped in terms of time trying to get an appointment, worsening of condition in the meantime, travel to surgery, waiting time there and waiting time at the pharmacy after”
In addition, with NHS cutbacks, some specific brands or types of medication can be obtained privately that are no longer available on the NHS: “I get a regular prescription online that isn’t funded by my GP anymore. I find repeat ordering simple and quick. Great service and quick delivery.”
Online dispensing and pharmacy services are particularly popular with treatments for common lifestyle conditions such as hair loss, erectile dysfunction, acne, and menopause, are instances where patients appreciate the discrete and convenient prescribing and delivery of their medications.
Simple Online Pharmacy is now firmly established as one of the UK’s leading online providers of weight loss medication, having diagnosed, prescribed & dispensed anti-obesity medication to 118k patients since 2015; more than any other online provider. With over a quarter of adults in England clinically obese, and even higher rates in Scotland at 30%, and over 1m hospital admissions in 2020 where obesity was a factor, national obesity levels are already having a significant impact on the health of our nation. Obesity levels are predicted to rise to 40% of the population by 2040; it is also predicted that 42 million, or 71% of the population will be overweight or obese by this date. Weight management is a key investment area for Simple Online Pharmacy, and their new comprehensive weight loss service ‘renu’ is launching later this month.
Renu builds on the existing weight care offering by delivering safe and effective new generation anti-obesity medication (including; Orlistat oral capsules and Saxenda and the soon to be launched Wegovy injectables) alongside clinician and dietician-led personalised health coaching and 24 hour expert support.
Simple Online Pharmacy also specialises in modular medication devices (known as compliance aids) that assist patients on a high number of medications through having their medication doses packaged into pouches for specific times through the day. There is no additional reimbursement from the NHS for re-packaging medication into these compliance aids (unlike many European countries where this service is specifically funded), therefore many community pharmacies are unable to fund making them at a local level. This is making it increasingly difficult for patients and their carers to get hold of these critical compliance aids. Without them, there is a higher risk of patients not adhering to critical medication, or taking medication incorrectly. With the advent of highly efficient robotics, running a centralised hub service where all patients’ medication is managed and re-packaged into innovative pouch compliance aid packaging, this invaluable service for NHS patients can be provided at a very low cost which is absorbed by Simple Online Pharmacy.
Co-Founder Addy Mohammed, explains; “You can see from our results and the reviews our patients are leaving us, that we are running an increasingly invaluable service providing an affordable alternative to the NHS for low risk medications in our Online Doctor Service, and ensuring that patients continue to have access to the critical compliance aid service. Knowing that we are helping ease pressure on the NHS and local pharmacies gives us great satisfaction and we are committed to working alongside other healthcare professionals to deliver a health service that meets all the needs of the modern patient.”
“Pharmacy is still very much going through its online revolution and we are incredibly proud of being one of the major pioneers in this industry. Both Karim and myself have our roots in community pharmacy, and through engaging with thousands of patients over the years we believe we have a unique insight into the challenges and problems that need to be solved for our online customers. Taking a patient-first approach and focussing on providing a discrete, affordable, convenient and high quality service frequently brings us reviews and feedback from customers that blow us away, and is echoed in our business results.”
The last couple of years have seen a period of significant investment in the business. In September 2021 former Skyscanner executives Shane Corstorphine and Jules Pancholi were appointed as Non-executive Directors and Rebecca Moore joined as COO in October 2022. The Simple Online Healthcare business has also expanded into other territories, notably acquiring Australian online doctor service Simple Online Doctor in 2020 and expanding into Europe in 2022 with the acquisition of the Kapsel and Dr Felix brands. The business is planning further international expansion this year.
As of 1st May 2023, Simple Online Pharmacy has served almost 500,000 patients in the UK alone.
The business remains privately owned and is fully self funded. Staff are set to share in the businesses success following the introduction of a staff share ownership scheme for all employees.
Embargoed until 00.01am Thursday 23rd November 2023
- Simple Online Pharmacy helped patients lose 113 metric tonnes of weight
- saving the NHS nearly £7 million annually
- Or nearly £35 million (including weight loss medication costs)
- 27% of patients chose to go private because the NHS process was too difficult/too long
- 3 out of 4 are more committed to making lifestyle changes when paying for weight care medication themselves
- Over 50% of patients anticipate staying on weight loss medication for 1-2 years, while 18% anticipate staying on it for 10 years or more.
- 97% saw an improvement in at least one aspect of their health with weight loss
- 1 in 5 patients required less medication for other health conditions
- 1 in 2 patients noted a change in attitudes from others, following weight loss
- 81% reported their overall mental wellbeing had improved since losing weight
Simple Online Pharmacy has today released a first of its kind, fully comprehensive patient survey into the impact of using weight loss medications. Alongside findings on patient health and lifestyle impact, the company announced that it has helped patients lose 113 metric tonnes of weight through the prescribing of weight care medications. This weight loss, if maintained, saves the NHS £6,893,221 annually in reduced healthcare costs together with a further NHS cost-avoidance of £28m attributed to weight care medication costs privately funded by patients.*(based on external study calculations)
The wide ranging and extensive survey conducted in October 2023 was distributed to over 25,000 patients who have experienced a significant reduction in BMI through taking weightcare medication. Over 400 individuals took part and findings were split into five sections, and alongside the key insights listed above, in-depth full results are available on each link below.
27% of respondents (in the BMI 35+ category) opted to pay privately having found the NHS process simply too difficult (even though their BMI level indicates they could qualify for NHS treatment) while 28% of respondents didn’t know they could get weight loss medications via the NHS. Paying privately can be a benefit as 75% of patients felt that paying for weight loss medication made them more likely to stick to long-term lifestyle changes.
Weight loss medication is not the first method tried by this patient group - in line with NHS guidance the majority of respondents have previously tried; calorie restriction (75%), exercise (69%) and weight loss groups (62%).The NHS website for treatment of obesity suggests “The best way to treat obesity is to eat a healthy reduced-calorie diet and exercise regularly”. It also states “You may benefit from joining a local weight management programme with group meetings or online support. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/obesity/). However this survey data suggests that for the vast majority of our patients living with obesity, these methods do not work. The majority of patients have been living with obesity for over 5 years, and have unsuccessfully tried all of the regularly suggested methods of weight loss.
Interestingly, many patients had considered more extreme, surgical methods to lose weight - in the higher BMI categories of 35 and above, 25% had considered bariatric surgery through the NHS.
At Simple Online Pharmacy we support our patients to build healthy life-long habits into their lifestyle through our holistic app renu. When asked which factors influence the food that they bought, price, at 38%, was selected as the most important factor, and an even greater proportion selected price in the higher in the 40+ BMI category: a staggering 47%
97% felt that they had noticed at least one area of their health improve with weight loss, increased mobility and improved energy levels often being cited. Patients with a BMI of 35 and above selected mobility as the biggest improvement area, with 63% in the BMI 40+ category selecting this. 1 in 4 patients agreed they needed less medication for other conditions as a result of their weight loss.
A substantial number (81%) of patients reported that their mood, confidence levels and emotional wellbeing had improved since losing weight. 71% noticed that their self-esteem had improved, and more than 2/3rds of patients felt they had a more positive body image after losing weight.
54% of patients surveyed stated that attitudes towards them had changed since they lost weight, with 49% of those describing reduced weight related stigma, bias or discrimination.
People felt that, once they had lost weight, they were seen as more capable, competent and taken more seriously. Some felt more included, and for some they received less negative comments and felt people were less judgmental of them. Almost a sixth of people surveyed felt that people were nicer to them; more positive, friendly and respectful. The comments shared by patients of the differences they had observed were stark and shocking; here are a selection of respondents comments;
“I think people respect thin people more. Its an unconscious bias but it’s definitely there”
“At meetings I have found more attention being paid to my input”
“I work as a physio in the NHS. Now I look like I can follow the health advice I provide and am perceived fitter and I feel taken more seriously professionally as a result”
“I feel that as a larger person, people treat you differently in a negative way. Like I am stupid, useless. As I was losing weight people start talking to me and acknowledging me.”
87% agreed that using weight loss medication as part of their weight loss journey made them “more aware of what they are eating”. Furthermore 84% had sustained an improvement in physical activity levels. These answers suggest people find it easier to create healthy habits with the support of a medication.
When asked about healthy eating, 65% of people surveyed felt that the rising costs of food made it harder to eat healthier. 68% stated that more affordable healthy food options would make the biggest difference to them, followed by 65% selecting ‘discounts on healthy food”. On the flip side 37% felt that “Buy One, Get One Free” offers on unhealthy foods influenced their decisions to buy; suggesting that it may be more important to make healthy food affordable, rather than banning the promotion of unhealthy food.
Sleep also plays a pivotal role in forming healthy habits; when asked what factors made it difficult to buy healthy food, the most selected reason (40%) was simply being tired; more than 50% of patients also reported that improved sleep was the most significant lifestyle improvement they noted from losing weight.
Simple Online Pharmacy was one of the first UK prescribers of weight loss medications, and is one of the biggest private prescribers of weight loss medications in the UK. To date, they have diagnosed, prescribed and dispensed anti-obesity medications to over 120,000 UK patients.
Rebecca Moore - COO and Podcast co-host, Simple Online Pharmacy "As one of the UK's leading private weightcare medication prescribers we see it as our responsibility to constantly improve the help and support we give to our patients, and to elevate the understanding of the impact of these medications for all healthcare professionals and the public, more broadly. This deep dive survey gives us extensive, real world insight into weight loss experiences, covering everything from accessing support, to the unexpected lifestyle impacts of using these medications, to the weight related stigma people living with obesity can regularly face.”
Simple Online Pharmacy is committed to offering the most effective weight management solution and continue to invest in this; from the introduction of holistic weight management app renu earlier this year, to the soon to be launched renu Podcast featuring eminent guests such as Dr Stuart Flint, Associate Professor of the Psychology of Obesity at the University of Leeds, and co-hosted by Sarah Le Brocq, Founder of All About Obesity.
Notes To Editors
It should be noted that this survey does not meet the conditions for a medical study. Whilst the overall responses have been reviewed by our clinical team, we cannot validate that each individual response that a patient submitted was correct and accurate. This survey is therefore purely a representation of patient opinion and observations on their own health.
- Why Patients Chose Weight Care Medications & Other Methods They Have Tried
- Creating and Sustaining Healthy Habits
- Physical Health and Mental Health Impact
- Changes in Attitude Towards Self and From Others Resulting from Change in Weight
- Quotes cannot be attributed to individuals - only to Simple Online Pharmacy patients, as the survey is anonymous
- Press pack images and infographics here