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Amazon vs the Pharmaceutical Sector

  • December 6, 2017
  • RPh on the Go

amazon pharmacy potentialThere have been multiple rumors that Amazon plans on entering the pharmaceutical sector, and it has certainly made big pharmaceutical companies take notice. Will they, or won’t they? But it looks like Amazon may be entering an easier part of the healthcare sector that won’t have a huge impact on pharmaceutical companies just yet.

Looking at Medical Aids and Supplies

Take a look at Amazon at some point, and you will find some medical aids and supplies already. It’s estimated that Amazon will look to improve that sector first as a way to enter the healthcare game. The company has already told regulators that they would not be shipping or storing any drugs. It would be easier for them to create a platform and/or subscription service, similar to Amazon Mom, for those in need of medical supplies.

Regulation Could Be Difficult

Regulations on medicines are not only governed a bit by federal standards, each state also has their own requirements. This could be a huge uphill battle for the conglomerate. Navigating the distribution of prescriptions is very specific and requires a lot of monitoring. How can the company possibly handle all of that in addition to their business now? While it’s argued that they can’t, it is possible for them to figure it out in the future.

Starting Out with Generics

Medical aids and supplies could get their feet wet but for them to really enter the game, they could start by offering generics in a mail-order format. Many generics cost $5 wholesale, and the company could charge customers $10. Competing with low-cost medicines at other pharmacies, such as Walmart, could prove to be difficult. On the one hand, people who have mobility issues will find the ease of medicines arriving at home. This sort of system already exists with the popular company PillPack, which is comparable to any other pharmacy. Amazon will have to find a way to make them a true competitor against an established system already in place. It shouldn’t be too difficult for them to figure that out since they already compete with so many other brick and mortar shops.

What Does This Mean for Pharmacists?

It will be awhile before Amazon can fully enter the pharmaceutical market, and there will be plenty of time to adjust to a new competitor. What Amazon will struggle with most is the personal care that a patient receives from any pharmacist. Can they truly monitor patients and notice trends that you already notice? Can they ensure that patients understand how to take their meds or educate them on side effects and interactions? It will be hard for them to be able to offer personal service in which people feel like they are truly being cared for. Given the way Amazon functions, we believe that eventually, they will be in the game, and it will be up to pharmacists to keep a good relationship with their patients to keep them from jumping ship right away.

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