Despite deepening economic gloom on both sides of the Atlantic, US online pharmacy has announced that it has reached a business milestone, becoming the first Internet-based pharmacy to achieve $1 billion in sales.

Significantly, was never dotcom newcomer but instead an imaginative extension of the leading US pharmacy benefit management firm Merck-Medco – itself an independent subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Merck and Co.

Launched less that 36 months ago, has since grown to become world’s largest and most successful Internet pharmacy. Its closest remaining dotcom rival is

"At a time when there were few believers, we invested to build the world’s most successful Internet pharmacy as a way to make a greater range of services even more accessible to our 65 million members across the United States," said Richard Clark, president, Merck-Medco.

"Early on, we recognized that the Internet provided an important opportunity to enhance our core business model and leverage our state-of-the-art infrastructure. Today, our strength in this area provides unmatched competitive advantage," added Clark.

The results speak for themselves. Merck-Medco now processes more than 160,000 prescriptions a week, the Website recently broke the $1 billion mark in prescription sales logged since its inception in October 1998, amounting to roughly 10 million prescriptions.

Clients include 150 of the Fortune 500 corporations, unions, health maintenance organisations, Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans, insurance carriers, local and state employee programs and the largest federal employees program.

In total, the company now delivers pharmacy services to 65 million members on behalf of its clients.

Merckmedco says it has achieved these results by tightly focusing on providing high quality services. Members can securely use the site to fill prescriptions, review prescription prices and co-payments based on their health plans, check prescription records and benefits, receive e-mail reminders for refills, and research a wide variety of healthcare information.

Due to the interaction between the site and Merck-Medco’s pharmacies, prescription refills can typically be mailed to members on the same business day. Prescriptions ordered through are filled through Merck-Medco’s network of 12 home delivery pharmacies, including the world’s most advanced automated pharmacy, at Willingboro, N.J.

"While the Internet roadside has been littered with the remains of once high-flying dot-coms, Merck-Medco has built a billion-dollar business that continues to enjoy rapid growth and customer acceptance," concluded Stephen Gold, senior vice president, Electronic Commerce Strategy and Delivery, Merck-Medco.