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Commentary

Would Amazon’s Entrance into the Prescription Market Impact Pharmacists?


November 27, 2017

Amazon has been contemplating entering into the US prescription drug market which is estimated at $560 billion per year. 1 As on-line consumers most Americans are very familiar with using Amazon. With their automation system and breadth and depth of consumer goods that are available, the average consumer is just a “click” away from having their products delivered to their doorstep.

Many retailers use on-line delivery services and many have had reasonable success with this model, however, Amazon is considered the on-line giant for automation and same or next day delivery service.

Based upon Amazon entering into the prescription market this would cause a ripple effect throughout the pharmacy world. Amazon can negotiate lower drug prices disrupting the traditional distributor prescription market. Many of the chain stores including CVS, Walgreens, etc…can potentially lose significant market share and be most threatened by the online giant. 2 One reason may be due to Amazon providing same day delivery service.

Imagine going to work in the morning and forgetting to stop by the pharmacy to pick up your prescription and other health-care products. During work you can access Amazon’s website (many of us are already doing this) pay for your prescription and then “click” on all the common products you use routinely when ordering from their site. Then….Wa-La……when you get home from work all your products are delivered to your doorstep. Recently, Walgreens announced a partnership with FedEx that would enable Walgreens to do more home deliveries. 3

Based upon our “point and click” shopping experience including same day delivery the days of pharmacists interacting with their patience may be significantly impacted. However, if Amazon does provide prescription service will they utilize pharmacists to interact with patients via computer or not. If Amazon prescription process is successful what will happen to pharmacist’s employment in the community setting?

Although a decision for Amazon to enter the prescription market may be 1-2 years away, if it becomes reality, it may have an enormous impact (positive or negative) on pharmacists.  We all have to wait and see.

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.

References

  1. CNBC. Amazon is on the brink of deciding if it will make a big move into selling drugs online. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/06/amazon-considering-selling-online-prescriptions-decision-coming-soon.html. Accessed October 16, 2017.
  2. Bloomberg. Amazon is headed for the prescription-drug market, analysts say. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-06/amazon-looms-over-pharmacy-chains-as-analysts-see-market-entry. Accessed October 18, 2017.
  3. The Washington Post. Fears of Amazon moving into prescription drug sales are already disrupting health care. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/10/27/fears-of-amazon-moving-into-prescription-drug-sales-are-already-disrupting-health-care/?utm_term=.3a622eaed38f/ Accessed Oct 27, 2017.

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