Go away, Amazon!

Most AJP readers don’t support Amazon.com entering the prescription drug business – although it wouldn’t be the first time it has done so

Last month, sources claimed that Amazon is seriously considering breaking into the prescription drug business, apparently a move the US online retail giant has been contemplating for a while.

Inside sources also claimed the retailer has already begun hiring for the expansion.

This is actually not the first time Amazon would have been in the pharmacy space – back in 1999 the company acquired a 40% stake in online start-up Drugstore.com.

The alliance between the two e-commerce companies included driving customers to each other’s sites, and the online pharmacy also fulfilled some orders for Amazon until 2005, when they ended the sourcing agreement.

Amazon still maintained a small stake in the company.

Walgreens eventually bought Drugstore.com in 2011, although in 2016 it shut the site down in favour of its own website Walgreens.com.

Now Amazon may be getting back into the online prescription drug business.

According to The Pharmaceutical Journal, UK pharmacists have responded with concern to reports that internet giant Amazon is considering a move into the pharmacy market.

“The most valuable aspect of community pharmacy is the interaction with the patient,” said Leyla Hannbeck, chief pharmacist at the UK’s National Pharmacy Association.

“Medicines cannot be compared to other products that you can sell online.

“We don’t know what Amazon is up to and they haven’t confirmed anything but we have concerns about what that could do to pharmacy in general.”

Japan’s Amazon website (Amazon.co.jp) has also started selling pharmaceuticals, according to The Japan Times.

Orders require consultation with a pharmacist before purchase on the website, with customers needing to report their symptoms and medical history via a form on Amazon’s site.

Items are only delivered after approval by a pharmacist.

So what do Australian pharmacists have to say about Amazon’s grand plans to enter pharmacy across the world?

We asked AJP readers to vote in our poll.

The results show most respondents (39%) do not support Amazon entering the pharmacy arena in Australia.

And a further 24% agree with Leyla Hannbeck that Amazon is wholly incompatible with pharmacy as a sector.

However 14% said they would consider working for the internet giant.

The full results are as follows:

  • 39%—I don’t support them entering the pharmacy sector in Australia (97 votes)
  • 24%—Amazon is incompatible with pharmacy as a sector globally (59 votes)
  • 14%—I’d be happy to work there (35 votes)
  • 8%—I support them entering the market but I wouldn’t work there (19 votes)
  • 7%—Don’t care (18 votes)
  • 4%—I’d work there reluctantly if that’s where the jobs were (9 votes)
  • 3%—This would never happen (7 votes)
  • 1%—Other (2 votes)

One AJP commenter suggested that regulators should “Keep the rules as they are and enforce them in order to break up current entrenched anticompetitive monopolies”.

Are pharmacy owners concerned?

There are strong rules surrounding pharmacy ownership in Australia, and considering the current climate – including expectations and concerns surrounding the long-awaited Review of Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation – owners currently have bigger fish to fry.

However the Pharmacy Guild is keeping an eye on the situation.

“We will be watching Amazon’s arrival with interest, but have no information as yet on their approach to selling medicines in the Australian market,” a Guild spokesperson told the AJP.

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  1. pagophilus

    Retail pharmacies selling S2 drugs on eBay is also incompatible with the spirit of pharmacy legislation in Australia and quality use of medicines. Don’t worry about Amazon if you can’t sort out your own mess that we already have (including breaches of ownership restrictions by creative legal structures).

  2. Jarrod McMaugh

    The issue isn’t whether current regulations allow for AMAZON to compete with pharmacies in Australia… But whether they would be enforced if a disruptive force enters the market and is unchallenged in their breach of any regulations.

    This could be said to be occuring now with the types of ownership structures mentioned by pagophilus on the poll.

    It is also evident from the way Uber entered the market that legislation that can’t actually be enforced will be ignored and eventually amended, with existing stakeholders that have carried a financial burden to abide by this legislation in the past poorly compensated for the failure of regulators to do their job. THIS is the potential threat from AMAZON to pharmacy in Australia…. And they’ll find political support from specific individuals who have an intense dislike for pharmacists…

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