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Watch out CVS and Walgreens: Amazon Pharmacy is here

Here’s what you need to know about Amazon’s move to become the prescription drugs king.

Watch out CVS and Walgreens: Amazon Pharmacy is here
[Photo: courtesy of Amazon]
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Amazon has officially launched Amazon Pharmacy, and with it, its hopes of dethroning CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart as the place where most Americans get their prescription drugs. As CNBC reports, Amazon Pharmacy grew out of Amazon’s acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack in 2018.

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Amazon’s launch of its own-branded online pharmacy couldn’t come at a better time. After all, more Americans are shopping online thanks to the pandemic—with many probably happy to forgo heading into a physical pharmacy if they can help it. Here’s what you need to know about Amazon’s move to become the prescription drugs king.

  • Amazon Pharmacy is available in 45 states: The states Amazon Pharmacy is not available in are Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Minnesota, though Amazon says it expects to offer Pharmacy in those states at some point in the future.
  • Paying for prescriptions: Amazon Pharmacy will accept most kinds of health insurance. Health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts can also be used to pay for prescriptions. And of course, people with no insurance can pay for prescriptions with any valid debit or credit card.
  • Personal and private customer data: In order to use Amazon Pharmacy, a customer will need to be 18 years old or older. Amazon will thus ask for their date of birth and may also ask customers if they are pregnant and their gender at birth. As CNBC notes, pharmacists are required by law to ask for such information as it helps them determine whether prescriptions are appropriate. Customer health information will be stored by Amazon in accordance with HIPAA regulations.
  • From the doctor’s office to Amazon Pharmacy: Just as a doctor can send your prescription to CVS or Walgreens right now, a doctor will be able to send your prescription right to Amazon Pharmacy. Customers can also transfer their own prescriptions from their current pharmacy to Amazon Pharmacy.
  • Birth control, yes; opioids, no: Customers will be able to get birth control through Amazon Pharmacy and other essentials like insulin. However, Amazon Pharmacy will not fill prescriptions for Schedule II-controlled medications, which includes many opioids.
  • Yes, there are benefits for Prime members: If you are an Amazon Prime member, you’ll get free two-day shipping on all your prescriptions. Amazon will also offer Prime members a “prescription savings benefit,” which will get them up to a 40% discount on brand-name prescriptions and up to an 80% discount on generics.

Announcing the new Amazon Pharmacy, TJ Parker, vice president of Amazon Pharmacy, said, “We designed Amazon Pharmacy to put customers first—bringing Amazon’s customer obsession to an industry that can be inconvenient and confusing. We work hard behind the scenes to handle complications seamlessly so anyone who needs a prescription can understand their options, place their order for the lowest available price, and have their medication delivered quickly.”