Amazon opens online pharmacy, shaking up another industry

Amazon said it will offer commonly prescribed medications, including creams, pills, as well as medications that need to stay cold, like insulin.
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Now sold on Amazon - insulin and inhalers.

The company opened an online pharmacy on Tuesday, giving Amazon shoppers the chance to buy their medication and order refills on their phones and have it delivered to their doorsteps in a couple of days, just like a book or toilet paper.

The move propels Amazon into a new business, potentially shaking up the pharmacy industry as it has done to everything from book sellers to toy stores and grocers. Big chains like CVS and Walgreens rely on their pharmacies to bring them a steady flow of shoppers who stop by frequently to pick up their medications.

Amazon said it will offer commonly prescribed medications starting Tuesday, including creams, pills, as well as medications that need to stay cold, like insulin.

Shoppers have to set up a profile on Amazon's website and have doctors send prescriptions to the Seattle-based ecommerce giant.

Most insurance is accepted, Amazon said. But Prime members who don't have insurance can also buy generic or brand name drugs from Amazon for a discount.

Amazon has been eyeing the healthcare industry for some time now. Two years ago, it spent 750 million to buy online pharmacy PillPack, which organises medication in packets by the time and day they need to be taken. Amazon said that PillPack will continue, focusing on shipping medication to people with chronic conditions. 

Earlier, in August, the Ecommerce giant announced the launch of Amazon Pharmacy in Bengaluru, marking its entry into the online medicine segment that has seen a significant traction amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As part of our commitment to fulfil the needs of customers, we are launching Amazon Pharmacy in Bengaluru, allowing customers to order prescription-based medication, in addition to over-the-counter medicines, basic health devices, and Ayurveda medication from certified sellers," an Amazon spokesperson said.

E-pharmacies need to register with the Central Licencing Authority for selling prescription drugs online. Amazon India is expected to partner with licence holders for offering the pharmacy service.

(Disclaimer: Additional background information has been added to this PTI copy for context)

Edited by Megha Reddy

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