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Commentary

Amazon Pharmacy: The Next Phase in Internet Pharmacy


January 21, 2020

cawleyAs we are all aware, the prescription market is a multi-billion-dollar industry. From CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, and everyone else the market is very crowded. In addition, there are hosts of on-line pharmacies that also make this more complex. However, now we have Amazon—the goliath of all retailers. With their global reach, they have dwarfed all competitors in the retail arena and now will continue to grow their medication prescription service. Since their acquisition of Pillpack, they are now beginning to position themselves for potential global dominance in this arena.

Based upon this expected surge in Amazons impact in the pharmacy arena, the major competitors are beginning to build up their defenses during Amazon’s expansion. CVS acquired Aetna for $69 billion to combine pharmacies, walk in clinics, and pharmacy benefit manager Caremark. Rite-Aid is trying to merge with grocery chain Albertsons, as well as collaborating with Humana, UnitedHealth Group, and lab testing via LabCorp. 1

Based upon the near future there is discussion that retail pharmacies will experience a major shake-up over the next five years. The future can see a limited need to interact with pharmacists. Alexa or other electronic home device will order medication refills, answer medication questions including potential drug interactions, provide best price quotes for medications, having their medical condition parameters monitored and of course, Amazon will incorporate drone deliveries of medications.

I see Amazon slowly influencing all aspects of the pharmacy profession. It will take time for Amazon to adapt to the prescription landscape, but make no mistake, I believe in the next 10 years I do not see the outpatient pharmacy experience the same in any way. I have concerns that the future of pharmacy is in question and it is up to us as pharmacists to demonstrate our value. If we do not, technology may not just replace many of our services but also make us obsolete.  

Michael J. Cawley, PharmD, RRT, CPFT, FCCM, is a professor of clinical pharmacy at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, University of the Sciences. He has more than 25 years of experience practicing in the areas of medical, surgical, trauma, and burn intensive care as both a critical care clinical pharmacist and registered respiratory therapist.

Reference:

  1. CNBC. Amazon shakes up drugstrore business with deal to buy online pharmacy Pillpack. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/28/amazon-to-acquire-online-pharmacy-pillpack.html. Accessed November 18, 2019.
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