On November 17th, the U.S. online shopping giant announced the launch of Amazon Pharmacy. This new service allows customers to purchase medication and prescription refills online.
What is Amazon Pharmacy?
Amazon Pharmacy allows customers over 18 to order medication via the Amazon store. Using a secure pharmacy profile, they can add their insurance information, manage prescriptions, and choose payment options before checking out.
The online pharmacy’s offer will include a range of generic and brand-name drugs – from birth control and aspirin to widely-prescribed substances like insulin, steroid creams, and blood pressure medication. However, it will not provide Schedule II controlled medications, which in the U.S. includes most opioids.
How does Amazon Pharmacy work?
Before ordering medication the first time, Amazon may ask customers for information about their gender, date of birth, and possible pregnancy. This information is legally required.
Doctors can send prescriptions directly to Amazon Pharmacy. Otherwise, patients can request transfers from existing retailers.
If customers have questions, they can contact one of Amazon’s pharmacists through online self-service or by phone. This service is available 24/7.
In addition, Amazon announced that it will be screening for potential problematic interactions if customers are taking several medications at the same time.
Is Amazon Pharmacy cheaper?
Amazon Pharmacy accepts most forms of insurance, and also offers discounts, especially for Prime members.
According to the company’s press release, Prime members can expect discounts of up to 80% on generic drugs and 40% on brand-name medications when paying without insurance. Free two-day shipping is included.
Most saliently, some medication may be cheaper through these discounts than through insurance copays. To help customers compare prices, Amazon lists different pricing options including insurance and various discounts in their check-out window.
Finally, Prime members can also get a prescription savings benefit card to use at up to 50,000 physical pharmacies.
When will it be available internationally?
So far, customers can use Amazon Pharmacy in 45 U.S. states. It is currently not available in Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Minnesota, though the company is hoping to add these states soon.
Amazon has not yet announced when it will extend its pharmacy offer internationally. However, it has already filed for the trademark ‘Amazon Pharmacy’ in the UK, Canada, and Australia.
Part of the reason for this uncertainty about international availability are strict country-specific regulations.
What impact will it have on the healthcare market?
Amazon’s push into healthcare began a little over two years ago, when it acquired PillPack, a U.S. prescription drug delivery service, for $753 million. Last year, it introduced its own line of over-the-counter drugs. August 2020 saw the launch of its health-monitoring wristband Halo.
With the accelerated trend to online shopping in the midst of the pandemic, Amazon’s move is well-calculated. Industry experts project online pharmacy service revenues to hit $131 billion worldwide by 2025.
Following Amazon’s announcement on Tuesday, the stocks of other providers of pharmacy services plummeted. CVS shares fell 8.6%, Walgreens Boots Alliance by 9.6%. Most prominently, online pharmacy provider GoodRx stocks plunged 22.5%. Amazon shares, on the other hand, closed slightly higher.