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Ask the Pharmacist: The pros and cons of Amazon Pharmacy

Suzy Cohen
Columnist

Just when you thought Amazon had enough money and had crushed enough small businesses, in comes Amazon Pharmacy! On Nov. 17th, the e-commerce giant debuted its own drugstore and successfully tanked the stocks of several big, reputable pharmacies.

All those big retail pharmacies will take a hit in sales because consumers can now buy their drugs online using their Prime membership benefits. This whole “mail order pharmacy” is nothing new, it’s just getting a face lift because Amazon is going to be very efficient with it. They’re good at everything! Amazon is easy, convenient and cheap. You can sign up in five minutes or less, and they work with many insurance companies.

Do you love the idea of that? It may come as a surprise to you, but this same, exact service is available right now at all major chain drug stores. Some offer same day delivery, depending on where you live.

Three bottles of pills from Amazon Pharmacy

Amazon is not warm and fuzzy, meaning there are no pharmacists to chat with about your interactions and side effects. If Amazon becomes the biggest pharmacy retailer in the United States, we can safely assume many retail pharmacists will face layoffs, reduced hours and diminished store sales in the front end of the stores. I’m not assuming that will happen, I’m sure of it. Amazon is very good at scooping up swaths of sales and crushing the little guy!

Amazon has opened an online pharmacy,  giving shoppers the chance to buy their medication and order refills on their phones and computers and have it delivered to their doorsteps in a couple of days.

Drug prices may be lower for people who are uninsured, but for those with insurance, it will not matter. Insurance copays and deductibles will remain the same. As for generic prices, they are very inexpensive to begin with! Prices are comparable across all pharmacies, including Amazon’s. If this topic interests you, sign up for my free newsletter at my website, suzycohen.com. Here are some other reasons why Amazon may not be right for you:

Trust

You like your pharmacist and staff because you have cultivated that relationship for years.

Security

Private information is required to sign up with Amazon Pharmacy. Many Americans today are nervous about Big Tech, and what they might do with this private data that includes your drug list.

Availability

You have an urgent need, for example, you have food poisoning, a poison ivy reaction, a UTI or yeast infection.  The discomfort of these conditions will prompt you to use a local pharmacy.

Age

You are not 18 years old. Amazon requires you to be 18 or older to use their pharmacy. 

Residence

You live in Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, or Minnesota. Those five states do not permit Amazon Pharmacy as of yet. You’re stuck with the little guys!

Specialty items

You need a compounded medication such as a special ointment, pill or cream-based bio-identical hormone.

Schedule II drugs

You need a Schedule II drug such as Ritalin for ADHD or Dilaudid for pain or many others, you cannot get those from Amazon. In fact, it’s hard to get those from any pharmacy, but you still can. However, if you want heroin or cocaine, move to Oregon where those have recently been decriminalized and are widely available, no prescription or pharmacist needed!

Oh man, we live in a very weird world! 

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit SuzyCohen.com.