The comedian Dana Carvey once asked the question, "Don't you love the pharmacy?" The 5-minute bit that followed highlighted all the awkward, confusing, and often frustrating elements of the pharmacy experience. The audience was with him the whole time.
Whether or not Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos watched Carvey's show, many in the industry agree that pharmacy is primed for disruption -- starting with home delivery. In fact, despite the best efforts of a group of companies called pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs), such as CVS Caremark and Express Scripts, mail order pharmacies only fill a paltry 1 out of every 10 prescriptions. Most of the 4 billion prescriptions dispensed in the U.S. every year are filled at one of 60,000 retail pharmacy locations.
That should seem surprising, as the vast majority of prescriptions are refills of ongoing medications. And that makes it ideal for home delivery.
So a recent report that Amazon had acquired pharmacy wholesaler licenses sparked a major wave of excitement in the industry. After all, Amazon had hinted at their potential ambitions last spring when they contacted several industry experts about pharmacy and PBMs, as reported by CNBC. Speculation was further fueled by the acquisition of Whole Foods. A retail base coupled with mail order could be an attractive pharmacy or foundation for a PBM. Add these new so-called pharmaceutical wholesaler licenses into the mix and all the pieces seemed to be coming together.
Except that it isn't. At least not yet.