Amazon Expands Push Into Health Care With Online Pharmacy
Comment of the Day

November 17 2020

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Expands Push Into Health Care With Online Pharmacy

This article by Angelica LaVito and Matt Day for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Analysts have long expected Amazon to dive deeper into health care in a bet the company can bring its digital real estate and logistical prowess to bear on a roughly $4 trillion industry in the U.S. with a reputation for inefficiency. The company rattled drug retailers with its PillPack acquisition, but Amazon has been slow to integrate the online pharmacy startup into its offerings.

The announcement Tuesday marks the first time that shoppers can order prescription drugs directly on Amazon. Previously, they were redirected to PillPack’s website. An integrated pharmacy removes one of the few gaps in Amazon’s offerings compared with major big box and grocery rivals, some of whom have long filled shoppers’ prescriptions in the same stores where they sold flat-screen televisions or cans of soup.

The discounts are a clear play for people who pay for their medications with cash, whether they are uninsured or are looking to save money. Strong demand for transparency and better deals have helped fuel the rise of discount card programs like GoodRx Holdings Inc. Amazon will display both the price when using insurance and the price without. Infusing transparency into a system that has been frustratingly opaque for consumers could alter the supply chain.

“We designed Amazon Pharmacy to put customers first – bringing Amazon’s customer obsession to an industry that can be inconvenient and confusing,” said TJ Parker, vice president of Amazon Pharmacy and co-founder of PillPack.

Eoin Treacy's view

Waiting for 15 or 20 minutes while a prescription is filled must be one of the biggest nuisances of the retail experience. Being forced to walk around aisles of products one has no interest in begs the question, “how long does it take to select a product from a shelf and put it in a bag?

The challenge for pharmacists is they spend much more time ensuring the veracity of a doctor’s instructions than they do filling them out. Yet, that is only small part of their business. The bulk of volume is focused on repeat custom and it is this business Amazon is targeting. Chronic conditions are where the money is in selling pharmaceuticals, Renewable prescriptions do not need to be verified all that often and cashflows are received on a subscription basis. That’s the kind of service Amazon excels at.

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