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Is Amazon Pharmacy an Existential Threat to Your Local Drugstore?

Local drugstores will probably find it difficult to compete with Amazon Pharmacy. Will that make a difference for you?
Is Amazon Pharmacy an Existential Threat to Your Local Drugs...
Indianapolis – Circa January 2019: Amazon Prime delivery van. Amazon.com is getting In the delivery business With Prime branded vans I

Dennis Miller’s explosive new book “The Shocking Truth About Pharmacy: A Pharmacist Reveals All The Disturbing Secrets” is available for download from Amazon for 99 cents.

According to Drug Store News (Sandra Levy, “Amazon Launches Amazon Pharmacy,” Nov. 17, 2020),

“The day the retail pharmacy industry has been bracing for is here. Amazon has launched Amazon Pharmacy, a new store on its website that allows customers to complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their desktop or mobile device.”

According to Drug Topics (Gabrielle Lentile, “Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy and Drug Delivery,” Nov. 17, 2020):

“Amazon’s plunge into pharmaceuticals has already affected industry competitors; the stocks of CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid fell between 8% and 15% today, the Associated Press and Reuters both reported.”

Many pharmacists see Amazon Pharmacy as a huge threat to the local drugstore. What do you think? Do you consider mail order and online pharmacies to be satisfactory alternatives to your local pharmacy?

Toll-free number vs. in-person counseling

Is a toll free phone number to your mail order pharmacy as good as speaking in person with your local pharmacist?

Does in-person counseling “add value” to prescriptions?

Economists discuss whether certain activities “add value.” Does your local pharmacist add value to your prescription through personal contact in answering your questions and in advising you how to best use your prescription medications?

The Internet can destroy previously secure jobs

The Internet has had a profound effect on the survival of many different types of businesses. For example,

Local booksellers

–Amazon has had a huge impact on local book stores as more seem to close each year.

Travel agents

–Online travel sites (Expedia, Travelocity, Kayak, Orbitz, etc.) have slashed the demand for local travel agents for airline and hotel reservations.

Letter carriers

–E-mail has slashed use of first class mail, threatening the survival of the U.S Postal Service.

Telephone operators

–The easy availability of phone numbers at whitepages.com and yellowpages.com have severely decreased jobs for telephone operators.

Phone book publishers

–Phone books and The Yellow Pages have been replaced by Google searches. Knowing your zip code, Google can search for “mechanics near me,” “dentists near me,” restaurants near me,” etc.

Newspaper publishers

–The Internet is an existential threat to newspapers as more cease publication or go online each year.

Map publishers

–Google maps and GPS (Global Positioning System) have slashed the market for printed maps.

Is your local pharmacist’s future as endangered as telephone operators, travel agents, letter carriers, local book sellers, map publishers, newspapers, etc.

Temperature extremes can hurt drugs

Do you worry about mail order drugs getting too hot in mailboxes in the summer or freezing in the winter?

Understaffing at chain drugstores

Does your local pharmacy seem to have adequate staffing that allows your pharmacist adequate time to answer your questions?

The big drugstore chains advertise that their pharmacists are eager to answer your questions when you visit your local drug store. The big chains use this as one of their biggest selling points to convince people to patronize their local drug store rather than a mail order facility.

But most chain store pharmacists don’t believe corporate advertising that encourages customers to speak with their local pharmacist. That’s because the big chain drugstores have adopted understaffing as their business model.

Pharmacy mistakes

Understaffing increases the profitability of the pharmacy by forcing everyone to work at maximum output for their entire shift. The result is an epidemic of pharmacy mistakes in pharmacies across America and inadequate time for pharmacists to answer customer questions in detail.

Is the error rate at mail order pharmacies lower than at community pharmacies? I once spoke with a neighbor’s son-in-law who is a mail order pharmacist. He told me that the speed of prescription filling at the mail order pharmacy he works at is truly scary.

Overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out

Does the staff at your local pharmacy usually appear to be overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out? That’s not an anomaly. It’s how corporate management at the big chain drugstores sees the path to profitability.

Inadequate counseling at chain drugstores?

In my experience, in-person counseling by a pharmacist is not all that’s it’s cracked up to be, for the following reason. Due to severe understaffing, pharmacists very often have time to just throw a few words at customers to satisfy board of pharmacy counseling requirements. Pharmacist counseling very often consists of one or two short sentences such as “This drug may make you drowsy. Be careful while you’re driving.” …..Or…..”Take this antibiotic till it’s all gone.”

Verbal counseling vs. printed leaflets

How much do you value pharmacists’ in person counseling? Can you usually remember everything that your pharmacist tells you about your medications? Would you, in fact, prefer a printed leaflet that you can read in the comfort of your home?

Drive-thru windows

How much would you miss your local pharmacist and local drugstore if mail order pharmacies are shown to have a more profitable business model? How much would you miss the drive thru window at your local drugstore? (By the way, in my experience most chain pharmacists hate drive thru windows because they increase the stress level on pharmacy staff, increasing the likelihood of a pharmacy mistake. Drive thru windows imply to the public that prescription drugs are no different from fast food.)

Price vs. convenience

Which is more important to you: price or convenience? Do you prefer an in-person pharmacist or are you satisfied with a toll-free phone number for a pharmacist at a distant mail order pharmacy? How much money do you need to save to make it worthwhile to use a mail order pharmacy?

Controlled substances

Does your mail order pharmacy fill prescriptions for controlled substances?

How many “days supply”?

Are the number of days’ supply for medications different at your local pharmacy in comparison to a mail order pharmacy?

Acute vs. chronic meds

Would you be satisfied to get your drugs (like antibiotics) for acute conditions at a local drug store and get your chronic meds via mail order?


Does your local pharmacy deliver? How important is delivery to you?

Can our health care system afford local pharmacists? Or will the most efficient and economical method for filling prescriptions eventually prevail with the growth of mail order and the demise of local drug stores?

The commodification of health

In my opinion, Amazon Pharmacy and, in general, the growth of mail order pharmacies, raise a fundamental issue about our health care system. That is the issue of the commodification of health. Our health care system has reduced human health to the consumption of commodities, i.e., pharmaceuticals. Using Amazon or other mail order pharmacies for pharmaceuticals reinforces the view that health is a commodity that can be purchased.

The commodification of health implies that one can purchase health at a doctor’s office or drugstore just as one purchases a refrigerator at Home Depot or Sears. In my opinion, Americans are unhealthy in large part because our health care system is designed to provide products (pills) rather than prevention.

Are pharmacists unnecessary middlemen?

Because Big Pharma (the pharmaceutical industry) has succeeded in convincing Americans that health is a commodity, it is not much of a stretch to convince people that they should get their prescription drugs from some distant mail order facility or from the new Amazon Pharmacy. These alternatives conveniently eliminate the local pharmacist who Pharma views as an unnecessary middleman between Pharma and the consumer.

If pharmaceuticals are commodities like all the other commodities available on Amazon, who needs a pharmacist? Big Pharma views pharmacists and drugstores as unnecessarily draining profits from the system, profits that belong to Pharma. This isn’t so unusual because many physicians resent the fact that pharmacists profit from the transaction between physicians and patients–by making a profit filling prescriptions.

Look online for answers to your drug questions

If consumers have questions about pharmaceuticals, Big Pharma would like the public to adopt the model utilized by companies like Hewlett-Packard (HP) as regards personal computers. Consumers with questions about pharmaceuticals or personal computers should look for answers online. Concerns about side effects? Pharmaceuticals don’t have side effects! Pharmaceuticals are as safe as any other product sold on Amazon!

Dennis Miller’s explosive new book “The Shocking Truth About Pharmacy: A Pharmacist Reveals All The Disturbing Secrets” is available for download from Amazon for 99 cents.

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