With a new offering called Amazon Pharmacy, Amazon is now officially entering the pharmacy business.
This new service can be used by Amazon customers to home deliver prescription medications in the United States. Delivery will be free for Amazon Prime members.
For the last few years, its pharmacy offering has been slowly and quietly built by Amazon following internal discussions in 2017 and the acquisition of PillPack in 2018. In the US however, the pharmacy business is notoriously complex and competitive and PillPack’s infrastructure has formed a key part of Amazon Pharmacy which includes the pharmacy software, fulfillment centers and relationships with health plans already available with PillPack.
The launch of the Amazon Pharmacy is the strongest push by Amazon in to the pharmacy market which is worth about $300 billion in the US and is being considered a potential threat to the conventional market leaders such as CVS and Walgreens, as well as other large retailers that offer pharmacy services, including Walmart.
The launch of Amazon Pharmacy therefore understandably resulted in the fall of pharmacy stocks in the US.
Amazon seems to have times the announcement of the new service quite well. There is a growing tendency among Americans to buy their medicines via mail to avoid Covid-19 infections. Some analysts say that the trend could be a permanent one with new means of receiving medication being tried out by more people than ever.
“We wanted to make it easy for people to get their medication, understand the cost and get it delivered to the home,” said TJ Parker, Amazon’s vice president of pharmacy, who previously co-founded PillPack. “The hard work is to make it easy … there were a number of complications behind the scenes.”
“We think this new benefit will add tremendous value to our members,” added Jamil Ghani, vice president of Amazon Prime. “It’s relevant as folks try to do more from the comfort and safety of their homes.”
Access to Amazon Pharmacy services will be available for consumers over the age of 18 in 45 states of the US excluding Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Minnesota starting this week. Those states will be added to the list over time.
While accepting most forms of insurance, Amazon Pharmacy could also provide some savings for those without any insurance. Flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts can also be used by consumers to buy prescriptions on the service.
The website of Amazon Pharmacy might also ask consumers questions such as whether they’re pregnant, their date of birth and their gender as it was assigned at birth prior to accepting orders for medications for the first time. Providing such information is mandated by law and helps in things like confirming prescriptions.
Prescriptions can also be sent directly to Amazon Pharmacy by doctors. Patients can also request for a transfer of their account from an existing retailer such as CVS or Walgreens.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)