(Bloomberg) Amazon.com Inc. has global aspirations for selling medical supplies through its business-to-business marketplace, Amazon Business, according to a job listing posted on its website. The post highlights the e-commerce giant’s sweeping ambitions to disrupt health care by selling products to hospitals, doctors and dentists and offering prescription drugs.
The world’s biggest online merchant is looking to hire someone to lead outreach to medical-products manufacturers and service providers, who will focus on building the business in the United States and then expanding it globally, according to the job posting. Amazon started the Amazon Business marketplace in 2015, with healthcare among the industries it listed as potential customers—along with factories, offices and universities. The new job posting emphasizes that what works for most businesses isn’t working for medical-industry clients.
“Our mission is to make Amazon the preferred shopping destination for Healthcare customers,” Amazon says in the the job posting. “Our healthcare customers have different needs than traditional Amazon Business customers and thus we are reinventing everything from how we display our selection, price our products, and provide the right customer experience. We seek to understand the specific needs of our healthcare customers, vendors, and sellers in order to deliver innovative solutions to serve their needs.”
That mission conflicts with a report earlier this year that Amazon Business had backed off a plan to sell and distribute pharmaceutical products to hospitals and healthcare clinics. That earlier report, made in April, was followed by increases in the stock prices of medical products distributors and retail chains.
Amazon shook up the prescription-drug industry last month with its $1 billion agreement to acquire online pharmacy PillPack Inc., following a series of deals between insurance companies and drug-benefit managers that aimed to blunt Amazon’s anticipated foray into the $300 billion prescription-drug business. In at least some cases, that caused the stocks of some pharmaceutical products distributors to drop in price, as analysts noted that it’s unclear how Amazon’s overall efforts in healthcare could affect business-to-business as well as retail sales.
PillPack has mail-order pharmacy licenses in all 50 U.S. states, which could allow Amazon to expand quickly. PillPack also has relationships with most major drug-benefit managers, including Express Scripts and CVS, and says it works with most Medicare Part D drug plans. Those ties will give Amazon access to much of the prescription drug market in the U.S.
PillPack sells pre-sorted packets of prescriptions drugs, delivering them to customers in their homes. The closely held firm has software that automates many tasks, such as verifying when a refill is due, determining co-pays, and confirming insurance. That eliminates much of the manual work that pharmacists often are saddled with now.
The pact follows months of speculation about Amazon’s plans to get into the pharmacy or drug-distribution business. Despite the retailer’s vast reach, entering the market presented a daunting logistical challenge in terms of licensing and dealing with a range of private and government payers. Acquiring PillPack’s networks helps Amazon surmount those hurdles.
Michael Rea, CEO of Rx Savings Solutions, said PillPack could transform the industry and that employers and health plans would benefit from the deal, which he called a “sign of the times.”
Meantime, Amazon is buying PillPack for its unique business and e-commerce business model, says Colin Sebastian, a senior research analyst with Robert W. Baird and a seasoned Amazon observer. PillPack claims to make it easier and faster for consumers to get prescriptions filled. PillPack manages multiple prescription medications for customers by pre-sorting, packaging and delivering the drugs—all with a 24/7 pharmacy staff that can be contacted either online or via phone.
A survey earlier this year of hospital executives by healthcare industry researchers Reaction Data found that 62% of respondents said they would welcome Amazon selling medical supplies on Amazon.com and on its marketplace.
“Amazon is seeking to disrupt the traditional healthcare supply chain by selling everything from bandages to hip replacements to syringes,” says Jeremy Bikman, CEO of Reaction Data.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos joined Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett and JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon earlier this year to form a new venture to address rising health-care costs. The group recently hired surgeon and health journalist Atul Gawande to steer the effort.
The staff of B2BecNews contributed to this report.
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