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Pros and cons of Amazon's new pharmacy service

Claims savings up to 80% off list price
Posted at 10:24 AM, Nov 19, 2020

Amazon is about to shake up the drugstore industry, the way it took on bookstores, electronics stores, and so much more.

It is promising Amazon Prime members big savings on their prescriptions.

But are pharmacy customers ready to buy their medicine from and give their personal information to Amazon?

Shares of drugstore chains Walgreens and CVS are down sharply this week with Amazons' unveiling of Amazon Pharmacy.

It promisessavings up to 80% off generics, and up to 40% off name-brand drugs.

Walgreens shopper Yah Israel of Bond Hill, buying prescriptions for her family, was excited by the news.

"Definitely for my loved ones, because saving money is top priority with all this COVID going on," she said.

Her only concern is with Amazon dominating just about every retail business.

"I love them," she said, "but it is kinda scary when one company has so much power."

Amazon Pharmacy pros

Walgreens and CVS offer convenience, with a store in almost every neighborhood.

But Amazon expects to top them on convenience as well, with delivery right to your front door in a day or two.

And that delivery will be free for Amazon Prime members.

It says that in a recent survey, three quarters of members said they'd be open to ordering prescriptions from Amazon, which gives them an instant base of tens of millions of customers.

Amazon will also have customer-service agents available to chat.

Amazon Pharmacy cons

But there are some downsides:

First, you have to register with your birth date and last 4 digits of your Social Security number before you can see exact pricing for your prescription. Some people will be reluctant to give Amazon that information just to kick the tires.

Some competing online pharmacies, like Health Warehouse, and price-comparison apps, like GoodRX, let you browse prices before you register.

You cannot do a casual price comparison on Amazon at this point, the way you can with TVs, Instant Pots, or other items.

And some customers, like Karen Anderson of Norwood, want the interaction with a human pharmacist at the counter.

"I like having the personal touch of a local pharmacist," Anderson said. "They are very helpful when you don't understand something."

But with Amazon powering its way into another market, you have to wonder if local drugstores could soon go the way of local bookstores, crushed by Amazon two decades ago.

Amazon Pharmacy is available now in Ohio and Indiana, though it has not yet been approved to operate in Kentucky, so if you have a Kentucky address, you will not be able to use it yet.

Wherever you shop, don't waste your money.


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