Amazon To Buy Somerville-Based Online Pharmacy PillPack

PillPack prepackages and mails consumers pills.									Pat Greenhouse  The Boston Globe

Amazon.com Inc.'s plans to buy online pharmacy PillPack sent shock waves through the health-care sector.

News of the acquisition sent pharmacy stocks tumbling yesterday, with Walgreens falling almost 10 percent and CVS sliding more than 6 percent. Losses in Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS, and Rite Aid exceeded 10% at their worst, with almost $15 billion of market value wiped out.

Brent Thill, an analyst at Jefferies, told Bloomberg the deal is the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of Amazon's plan in healthcare. The acquisition will close in the second half of the year. American pharmacies. Today the internet juggernaut announced it is acquiring PillPack, which is licensed to ship prescription medications to 49 states.

CVS Health noted that PillPack isn't the only company in the space with drug delivery capabilities. The startup serves tens of thousands of customers and last summer launched PharmacyOS, a system created to simplify interactions between pharmacies, patients and payers and assist patients who manage multiple prescriptions. That eliminates much of the manual work that pharmacists often are saddled with now.

"PillPack's visionary team has a combination of deep pharmacy experience and a focus on technology", said Jeff Wilke, head of Amazon's worldwide consumer division - and CEO Jeff Bezos' right-hand man. In 2016, US consumers spent $328.6 billion on retail prescription drugs, according to the USA government.

"Individual owners can build their business knowing they will have delivery volume from Amazon, access to the company's sophisticated delivery technology, hands-on training, and discounts on a suite of assets and services, including vehicle leases and comprehensive insurance", an Amazon statement said. Pharmacy and health benefits companies have long fretted that they'd be next.

Last week, Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway announced Boston doctor Atul Gawande as the chief executive of the companies' new health care venture, which will be based in Boston. Kroger Co. (KR.N), the biggest USA supermarket chain, saw US$2 billion in market value wiped out in one day. Big packaged food stocks also took a hit.

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"When Amazon sneezes, everybody else catches a cold", said Joseph Feldman, an analyst with Telsey Advisory.

Prescription drugs sales are largely intertwined with groceries and personal items like makeup and shampoo and Amazon already sells bulk packs of latex gloves, bed pads and syringes.

"Online pharmacies [are] already making inroads, but Amazon would completely disrupt [the] market".

The PillPack acquisition gives Amazon a foothold in the regulated pharmacy business. The startup has raised upwards of $120 million in funding from backers including TechStars, Menlo Ventures, and Accel.

While the details of the deal aren't yet public, Amazon is said to be paying roughly $1 billion for PillPack, a company that was valued at $300 million as recently as 2016.

GE left the Dow with the lowest share price and least amount of influence in the index, which is derived from an average of stock prices among constituent companies.

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