The news this week that Amazon.com is getting into the prescription drug business sent stocks of retail pharmacies down but questions sell remain.
I’m an Amazon.com Prime member and have been for a long period of time. I have a love-hate relationship with Jeff Bezos. While I admire the fact that he built a billion-dollar business from scratch, I hate that he has used so little of his wealth for the “common good.” I also don’t see the need for Amazon to use their own delivery service when UPS and the Post Office are available.
This week, Amazon’s news that they are finally leaping into the prescription drug business was not a shock. They have been hiring pharmacy insiders for a long time, and their acquisition of PillPak was a strategic move. But will patients flock to Amazon?
With retail pharmacies close to 90% of the population, it’s easier to either pick up your Rx’s locally. Retail pharmacies have drive-throughs and often offer delivery for a minor charge.
Then there are the shipping and delivery issues. Can prescription drugs stand to be in boxes in the summer heat, and do people trust that their prescriptions will arrive on time?
Then there are privacy issues. There is no doubt that Amazon.com knows a lot about its customers. Will those customers want their Rx data used to make product recommendations? What happens if a patient switches insurers or has a problem with an order? You can often talk to a pharmacist at retail, but online, who can they talk to, and will it be a real person instead of a BOT?
The one hidden piece of the puzzle is that Amazon may contract with companies to secure Rx distribution, forcing them to use Amazon. They are clearly going to have an impact but what that impact might be is debatable.
A new door for DTC Marketers?
There are endless possibilities for Amazon to partner with drug companies but Amazon can’t, under any circumstances, share patient level data with them. Drug companies can provide highly targeted ads as well as information about current products.
Offering coupons may not be relevant since Amazon is discounting the drugs but I expect the retail giants to fight back with “value-added” services and deeper discounts.
I force a future where the retail pharmacy is a wellness center with the ability to immediately meet with an HCP rather than waiting for an appointment with their doctor. That is one area where retail can beat Amazon.com.
The future of healthcare will continue to get rocked by disruption, and that’s good for consumers because it’s going to lead to lower prices.