Amazon buying online pharmacy with nationwide reach; drug store stocks dive

Tuesday, 03 Jul, 2018

Rapper Nasir "Nas" Jones' venture capital fund scored another victory on Thursday with Amazon's announcement that it had acquired online pharmacy PillPack for a reported $1 billion.

Such a move had always been expected by investors in established healthcare companies, who have long feared the world's biggest online retailer's potential to disrupt the complex and opaque US drugs business. Last year, billions of pounds were wiped off the value of Britain's Big Four supermarkets when Amazon revealed it had bought retailer Whole Foods.

PillPack, meanwhile, is already licensed to deliver medications to all 50 US states, helping Amazon clear the regulatory hurdles that might have complicated its foray into the prescription drug industry.

In a statement, PillPack CEO and Co-Founder TJ Parker said the company, together with Amazon, plans to "continue working with partners across the healthcare industry to help people throughout the U.S. who can benefit from a better pharmacy experience". Its PharmacyOS - the system it has built that forms the basis of the company - is a platform that helps manage patient data and figure out how to balance meds together in safe doses for its customers. While some drugstores already do home delivery, the news is still painful for brands that may not be ready to compete against the might of Amazon.

PillPack's visionary team has a combination of deep pharmacy experience and a focus on technology.

Shares of Walgreens and CVS Health Corp. fell in pre-market trading.

PillPack strives to provide the best possible customer experience for people in the USA who take multiple daily prescriptions.

But all the companies said on Thursday was the deal was subject to some regulatory approvals and that the companies hope to close the transaction during the second half of this year.

The acquisition follows months of rumors that Amazon was eyeing consumer healthcare services, particularly the pharmacy space.

Shares of drug wholesalers, like those of AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Express Scripts, also took a smaller hit following news of the deal.

The S&P health sector dropped 0.61 percent, the most among the 11 S&P sectors, while Amazon gained 1.2 percent. "The Street will view this Amazon move as the beginning of the threat, not the entirety of it".

PillPack has mail-order pharmacy licenses in all 50 states, which could allow Amazon to expand quickly. "We're all just waiting and tapping our foot to see the actual policy". Earlier this year, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase announced new healthcare joint venture and recently named Dr. Atul Gawande Chief Executive Officer of their newly-formed company to address us employee healthcare.