Amazon is doing what Amazon does, shifting its enormous glowing eyes to unconquered terrain. Next up in its conquest: meds. Bezos and Co. are getting into the online pharmacy business, adding insulin, inhalers and prescription refills to their formidable online catalog. Order your meds on Amazon and they’ll show up at your door a couple days later, no human contact needed.
The announcement alone set CVS Health Corp., Walgreens and Rite Aid stocks into a free fall, and no wonder. The marriage of pharmacy and grocery store is a pretty old one, and these chains rely on pharmacies for a flow of customers who swing by to pick up their medications and run a few errands in the process. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all of our grocery shopping schedules and big stores have been trying to pivot to contact-free styles of delivery. But Amazon developed infrastructure for this kind of work a long time ago.
Amazon’s clearly looking to claim another scalp here. Its life began as a bookseller, pioneering the online market in a way that left other booksellers like Borders in the dust. Its lauded shipping business has also put a squeeze on UPS and the purchase of Whole Foods set major grocery stores scrambling.
But the pharmaceutical biz is a complicated and contentious industry, and Amazon’s move comes as places like Walgreens and CVS attempt to catch up to online shopping by offering things like same-day delivery. Amazon will accept most major insurance companies and offer medication to uninsured Amazon Prime members at a discount. Amazon will not offer medication with a high risk of being abused, according to the Associated Press.
For a country currently at odds about how fix a healthcare system in which the soaring costs of necessary medication plays a huge part, Amazon’s disruption has the potential to be seismic — though for good or bad is hard to tell.