Amazon’s latest foray into the healthcare sector – a definitive agreement to acquire US online pharmacy, PillPack – has huge disruptive potential for the traditional drugstore pharmacy sector. A start-up founded in 2013, PillPack is licensed in 49 US states to offer pre-sorted doses of medications, coordinate refills and renewals, and ensure timely home delivery to customers. Financial terms of the deal were not revealed, but the transaction is expected to close during Q2 2018, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.
Walmart was rumoured to be interested in acquiring PillPack earlier this year, and the company lost US$3bn in market capitalisation after the Amazon deal was announced on Thursday 28th June. The two companies are now locked in an intense global rivalry, with Walmart coming out on top in India after acquiring a 77% stake in Flipkart in May 2018. Such huge M&A investments will advance e-commerce’s share of the pharmaceuticals market in key markets like India and the US, with the potential to revolutionise the consumer healthcare sector too.
PillPack is currently a small operation, expected to post revenue of US$100mn this year, but Amazon’s existing customer base and shipping infrastructure could allow it to quickly scale up. Brick & mortar pharmacy chains are already seeing the consequences of the deal; as the news broke, shares in Rite Aid fell 11%, Walgreens Boots Alliance 9.9% and CVS Health 6.1%, a collective US$11bn in market value.
Though consumers in many markets remain hugely reliant on pharmacist advice when making OTC purchases, there’s no doubt that price is a very sensitive area that makes traditional brick & mortar retailers vulnerable in this evolving retail landscape. Certain OTC categories where there is a strong wellness or personal care element, such as VMS and dermatologicals, are most likely to see a significant rise in e-commerce sales.
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