Amazon Launches a New Online Pharmacy Service

Amazon Launches a New Online Pharmacy Service
Ashton Forst, PharmD, Hennepin Healthcare

In November 2020, Amazon launched an online pharmacy dedicated to delivering prescription medications to patients within the United States called Amazon Pharmacy. This new online service offers Amazon users a quick and easy way to purchase both prescription and non-prescription medications in one location. In addition to the accessibility of this service, Amazon is also offering significant discounts on medication prices for Prime members. Prime members get up to 80% off generic and up to 40% off brand name medications when they pay without insurance. Customers also will have the opportunity to compare co-pay prices with discounted Amazon prices at checkout. This business move builds off Amazon’s purchase of PillPack, an online pharmacy that lets user’s buy medications in pre-made doses. CEO of PillPack and vice president of Amazon Pharmacy stated that the pharmacy service intends to bring “customer obsession to an industry that can be inconvenient and confusing.” 

Although this service appears to be an advantage for patient accessibility, Amazon’s entry into the highly competitive pharmacy market is not necessarily welcomed with open arms. A professor from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Craig Garthwaite, stated “Amazon’s launch of an online pharmacy is a meaningful threat to brick and mortar pharmacies. These retail pharmacies must now offer more than just easy access to a prescription”. In addition to Amazon Pharmacy’s online services, similar discounts on non-insurance products apply at more than 50,000 retail pharmacie, such as CVS and Walgreens, for those customers who are Prime members and desire to buy their products in-person. 

Since the purchase of PillPack in 2018, Amazon has secured Board of Pharmacy licensure to ship prescription medications to nearly all 50 states. Currently, Amazon’s online pharmacy is not available to residents of Illinois, Minnesota, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Hawaii, but this won’t be the case for long. Online purchasing of medications will likely increase in the coming years.This new service will impact pharmacies and pharmacists as it will likely drive more patients to purchase their medications online. It is important as healthcare professionals to stay informed on online platforms for purchasing medications in order to provide accurate guidance for safe online buying of medicines. 

 

References

  1. Dastin, J., Banerjee, A. Amazon launches online pharmacy in new contest with drug retail. Reuters: Healthcare & Pharma. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-pharmacy/amazon-launches-online-pharmacy-in%20new-contest-with-drug-retail-idUSKBN27X170. 2020, Nov 17. Accessed January 15th, 2021.