Amazon Pharmacy could redefine healthcare

A drawing of a hand holding a pill with the Amazon logo on it and a pill bottle next to it that says, "Amazon Pharmacy: Tommy Trojan."
(Kristine Nguyen | Daily Trojan)

Save time, save money, stay healthy. Americans pay more for prescription drugs than anyone else — Amazon Pharmacy is about the future.

Because of the coronavirus, telehealth demand has skyrocketed and Amazon’s timely entry into the pharmaceutical industry has the potential to take the world by storm. Locally, Amazon Pharmacy can especially benefit college students. 

Although medications require a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider, Amazon Pharmacy customers do not need insurance to purchase medication. This policy is especially beneficial for college students going through a transition period to become independent from their families and looking to purchase their own health insurance. After all, it is common for insurance companies to make it difficult for students to seek medical care. 

In light of the mental health crises that many college students may face, Amazon Pharmacy is capable of meeting these demands for mental health services and medicinal needs. 

At Plushcare, a nationwide virtual platform that connects patients to health care professionals for same-day appointments, patients can speak to a doctor about their medical needs and then pick up their prescription at a local CVS or Walmart. With its vigorous foray into the trillion-dollar healthcare and insurance industries, Amazon can combine all of these services into a compact, one-stop shop. 

Amazon Pharmacy threatens major players in the pharmaceutical industry, and it has powerful advantages that deem it superior: Convenience of setup and ability to track orders. Signing up for Amazon Pharmacy takes only about five minutes, and customers can easily track their prescriptions like their other purchases from Amazon; the latter is unique to Amazon because no other retail pharmacies currently offer prescription tracking comparable to Amazon’s accuracy. 

The prevalence of Amazon pick-up lockers in college locations cater to a college students busy lifestyle, therefore increasing accessibility for college students to get their prescriptions. In the future, Amazon can either partner with other pharmacies or open their own in-person retail pharmacy near college campuses.

With over 150 million Amazon prime members in the United States, Amazon Pharmacy offers two major benefits for prime members: Free two-day shipping for medications and discounts of up to 80% and up to 40% for generic and brand-name drugs, respectively. Through medication discounts, Amazon Pharmacy members can buy their own drugs for a cheaper price than if they were to use their insurance benefits. 

While Amazon Pharmacy is still in its novel stage, it should join forces with Accessible Pharmacy to become a global force within the healthcare sphere for people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. Accessible Pharmacy emphasizes reduction of barriers for people with disabilities by providing packaging and a labeling menu for prescriptions that includes Braille, large print and audio among other services geared toward accessibility. Amazon Pharmacy should learn from them and incorporate greater levels of accessibility into its mission.

Bringing Amazon’s customer obsession to Big Pharma can ultimately change drug consumerism for the better; seamless digital pharmacy transactions will dominate the brick-and-mortar pharmacy.

Jeff Bezos, Founder and Executive Chairman at Amazon, does not fear failure. His aggressive pharmacy strategy eliminates the middle parties in Big Pharma; while a drug usually has to pass through at least three parties to make it from the drug-maker to the patient, Amazon Pharmacy streamlines the entire process to make it easier for drug-makers, insurance companies and the patient, while taking affordability into account. 

Despite Big Pharma’s impending downfall due to its highly convoluted and overly complex business models, Amazon Pharmacy’s success is well-deserved if it focuses on affordability along with the efficiency that it already provides. Amazon needs to use its power and corporate strategy to compensate for the necessarily high prescription prices that plague Big Pharma.

Health is so important. In an era of online shopping, Amazon is one of the best e-commerce platforms. However, it will take time and effort for the tech giant to rise to the top over Big Pharma. For USC students, we might just see an Amazon Pharmacy open up near Amazon at the Village in the coming years — the pharmacy of the future.