Amazon announced this week, its huge move into the pharmacy business; it sent shockwaves through the industry. Is the tech giant going to take the heath care world by storm or break it?
Amazon recently launched Amazon Pharmacy, its online and mobile prescription medication ordering and fulfillment services. The service lets users buy medications, order refills online and have it delivered to their doorsteps, in a couple of days. Amazon Pharmacy will allow customers to complete pharmacy transactions on their desktop or through the Amazon’s mobile app.
Now, the world’s largest online retailer run by the world’s richest man is getting even further into the U.S. healthcare market by offering to send prescription drugs to its customers’ doors. In announcing the new venture on Nov. 17, Amazon said in a statement that customers can purchase prescription medications with or without insurance.
Customers will be able to create a secure pharmacy profile to add their insurance information, manage prescriptions, and choose payment options before checking out, Amazon explained in a statement.
Prime members receive unlimited, free two-day delivery on orders from Amazon Pharmacy included with their membership, the company added. Additionally, it announced a program for Amazon Prime members that let them buy medications at a discount when paying for them without insurance. The program, available at the Amazon Pharmacy and 50,000 pharmacies across the USA, can save Prime members 80 percent off generic drugs and 40 percent off brand name medications.
A number of self-service options are also available at Amazon’s pharmacy, as well as 24/7 phone access to “friendly and knowledgeable” pharmacists to answer questions about medications.
Doctors can send prescriptions directly to Amazon Pharmacy, currently available in the US only, or patients can request a transfer from their existing retailer.
Amazon has been quietly building out its pharmacy offering for several years after ramping up internal discussions in 2017 and buying PillPack in 2018. Amazon paid $753m two years ago to acquire Pillpack, which will continue to run its own business. However, Amazon will leverage its pharmacy software fulfillment centers, and relationships with health plans.
When Amazon acquired online pharmacy Pillpack in 2018, they said health data would remain separate and distinct from that on its retail site and no information would be shared with advertisers without permission.
But, many are afraid of the ‘data problem’. If you’re an Amazon user your data is used by the company for marketing and advertising purposes. Many believe Amazon can now track your conditions, your medications, and when you last had them filled, And use predatory methods of advertising. Plus, many believe that Amazon is slowly becoming a monopoly and may take over this industry. CVS, Walgreens, and other huge pharmaceutical companies’ stocks already plummeted since the announcement of Amazon Pharmacy.
However, a lot of people see the introduction of Amazon Pharmacy as a big win, especially in a pandemic. Individuals do not have to wait in lines in public for their prescriptions; instead, they can stay home and order safely. Moreover, the discounts Amazon is offering on generics (up to 80%) to people with or without insurance are incredibly attractive.
Forrester analyst Arielle Trzcinski, in her research notes on the Amazon announcement, sees a number of benefits for consumers in the new pharmacy offering.
“The ability to track your order is a nice added feature than many PBMs (pharmacy benefit manager) and pharmacy experiences do not provide,“ she wrote. “Visibility across the supply chain will provide greater comfort to consumers who may be fearful of delays or the risk of medications getting lost in the mail.“Arielle Trzcinski, Forrester analyst
Although Amazon Pharmacy service is only available across the states at the moment, it is expected to be available worldwide in good time. As the need for pharmaceuticals is everywhere; it’s a global opportunity.