Nearly everyone has logged onto Amazon to see if they have a product they are interested in. And Amazon almost always carries that product. That’s because Amazon takes advantage of an economic principle called the long tail. Essentially what this means is that Amazon can make profits from selling obscure rarely purchased products that a big box retailer could not. As Amazon continues to expand the nearly half billion item long inventory list (compared to just about 142,000 products sold in a WalMart) they are looking to enter new industries. The latest? Prescription drugs. So, what challenges do you face, and when can you get your prescription on Amazon?
Why do they want to sell prescription drugs?
As Amazon prepares to enter the pharmaceutical business it has a complex path to weave through all the legal regulations. With all these regulations why would Amazon even want to enter in the industry? Well, healthcare currently accounts for 18% of the United States GDP and is projected to grow to 20% in the coming decade as the population ages. Each year Americans spend $374 billion on prescription drugs. Additionally healthcare is a category in which nearly every household has a consumer, allowing Amazon to build relationships with the entire population.
When can you get your prescription?
Amazon has already begun to hire talent within the industry, including Mark Lyons, the former director of Premara Blue Cross. In the US, pharmacies are required to be licensed and registered in each state they wish to sell medicine so the process may take a long time. In Japan, Amazon is already in concept testing allowing category 1 drugs to be sold with pharmacist approval. Testing in American markets is likely still a year or so away but once it’s here, Amazon Pharmacy is likely to seriously disrupt the American health care industry. With Amazon’s size and reputation for competitive pricing, the prices of drugs could come down.
As Amazon begins to enter this industry, the legal questions go beyond just getting a license in each state. How can Amazon verify it is actually you who is ordering the prescription? Could this lead to more prescription drug abuse? The questions are numerous and this journey for Amazon will likely be an exciting one.