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Amazon cancels pharma license application in Maine, raising more questions about its health-care plans

  • Amazon canceled a pharmaceutical license application in Maine, RBC analysts said.
  • It is unclear how this impacts Amazon's health-care plans.
  • Since Maine does not require a medical device license for the sale of medical supplies, this may be an indication Amazon may not enter the drug supply chain, RBC analysts said.
Prescription drugs
Jose Luis Pelaez | Getty Images

Amazon appears to have canceled a pharmaceutical wholesaler application in the state of Maine, analysts at RBC Capital Markets pointed out Tuesday, raising further questions about the tech giant's plans to enter the pharmacy space.

The Maine Board of Pharmacy website shows an application from Amazon.com was canceled on Dec. 1, RBC analysts George Hill, Stephen Hagan and Lee Lueder wrote in a research note. Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The news that Amazon had acquired wholesale pharmacy licenses in multiple states, first reported in October by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, heightened already intense speculation that the company planned to compete in prescription drugs. But experts soon pointed out that the licenses didn't enable Amazon to distribute prescription medicines; instead they supported existing medical products businesses.

But RBC's analysts say Maine's regulations mean Amazon's licensing activities in the state could be a signal of its plans.

"In Maine, a medical device license was not needed for the sale of medical supplies so industry sources have implied the Maine license was a strong leading indicator of whether or not Amazon would enter the drug supply chain," RBC wrote. "We see this cancellation as a negative indicator of the likelihood that Amazon enters pharmacy in the near term and thus as a positive for the pharmacies and drug supply chain."

Speculation about Amazon's entry has weighed on stocks of drug distributors, pharmacy benefits managers and retail pharmacies.

Amazon has remained silent about what, if any, plans it may have for a bigger move into health care. CNBC reported last week that the company has engaged in exploratory discussions with makers of generic drugs about what role it could potentially play.

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