Askul to sell nonprescription drugs through Internet

Askul Corp., a mail-order office supplies retailer, will start selling nonprescription drugs over the Internet this month, company officials said Wednesday.

The decision was made after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government decided in principle to allow online nonprescription drug sales under its new economic growth strategy.

Askul will initially sell low-risk products such as vitamin supplements, but it plans to start selling drugs that could have side effects, such as cold medicines, as early as August after opening a new distribution center in Saitama Prefecture.

Askul's online shopping mall called Lohaco will accept orders, with about 4,000 items available.

The company is considering offering online video counseling services from pharmacists. "We intend to offer services that can be trusted by customers and municipalities, while keeping safety paramount," an official of the company said.

Customers will be able to buy office supplies, foods and other products along with drugs through the Lohaco site and receive free shipping for combined purchases of 1,900 yen or more.

Starting this summer, the company plans to provide same-day delivery for the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kinki region centering on Osaka, and next day delivery for other areas.