Explained: Amazon Pharmacy and changes it brings to pharmaceuticals


Photo retrieved from Amazon News Twitter account.

Sophie Byrne, Social Justice Reporter

As the one-year anniversary of the first known case of COVID-19 draws near, long-term societal impacts of the pandemic are beginning to reveal themselvesOne area that has changed due to COVID-19 is healthcare, as demand for “telehealth” has skyrocketed. 

Hospitals and clinics have expanded their range of services to include more self-service tools for patients including remote doctors appointments, contactless pickup and delivery of medication, etc. Now that COVID-19 has displayed how much technology can accomplish, both consumers and corporations are looking to how this can be utilized in market expansion. One of these corporations is Amazon, which on Nov. 17 announced the launching of its new store Amazon Pharmacy 

Amazon Pharmacy, a new store on Amazon, allows customers to complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their desktop or mobile device through the Amazon App. Customers may then have prescriptions delivered directly to their home address, in discreepackaging. As many consumers are looking for ways to minimize leaving the house, in light of the pandemic, Amazon’s new launch is timely for consumers. 

Although medicine will require a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider, customers do not need insurance to complete a transaction through Amazon Pharmacy. Customers are also able to speak to licensed medical professionals, who may assist them in obtaining their prescriptions. 

In addition, Amazon Prime members are also promised up to 80% savings on prescriptions—without insurance—and enjoy free two-day delivery. “Together the Amazon Prime prescription savings benefit and Amazon Pharmacy make it simple for customers to compare prices and purchase medications for home delivery, all in one place,” according to the Amazon press release. 

The announcement of Amazon Pharmacy comes around two years after Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack, another online pharmacy company, in 2018. Industry experts and analysts were quick to speculate that this was Amazon’s first move towards infiltrating the pharmacy industry in the United States and beyond. 

With the announcement of Amazon Pharmacy, experts are questioning the implications for other pharmaceutical companies and for the industry, given that Amazon Prime boasts around 150 million members worldwide. If Amazon Pharmacy is as user-friendly as advertised, the service could experience rapid expansion. 

According to CNBC, the stock market shares of pharmaceutical giants dropped with Amazon’s announcement, while Amazon shares saw a slight increase. “Pharmacy stocks tumbled following the launch of Amazon Pharmacy. CVS shares fell 8.6%. Walgreens Boots Alliance dropped 9.6%. Shares of Rite Aid slid 16.2%. GoodRx, which helps consumers find discounts on prescription drugs, fell 22.5%. Amazon shares closed slightly higher.”  

Locally, Amazon Pharmacy could be beneficial for college students and young people. Many college students and young people are in tricky periods of transition when it comes to insurance and not all are able to obtain prescription medications. Even though Amazon Pharmacy does require a prescription from a licensed medical professional, it gives students who have lost their eligibility or been taken off their insurance plan to continue to access medicine. Additionally, for students who already have an Amazon Prime subscription, it is beneficial financially to bundle prescriptions with other purchases.  

“The company said its online pharmacy will offer commonly prescribed medications in the U.S., including creams, pills, as well as medications that need to stay refrigerated, like insulin. Shoppers have to set up a profile on Amazon’s website and have their doctors send prescriptions there. It won’t ship medications that have a high risk of being abused, like some opioids.

Amazon members can also get discounts at 50,000 physical pharmacies around the country at Costco, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and other stores. In addition, an online pharmacy is more accessible to those who may not be able to make it to a physical pharmacy due to their occupation, location, or mobility. On the other hand, internet access is not universal. Physical pharmacies will always be in demand.  

Although Amazon Pharmacy’s impact on the greater pharmaceutical world will not be known for some time, consumers are already taking advantage of the service. For more information about Amazon Pharmacy, readers may visit the website.