Pharmacies react to Amazon joining the industry

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — Some call Amazon the boogeyman of retail and as we reported Tuesday the company is now stalking pharmacies.

Amazon Pharmacy customers can order medication or refills and have them delivered to their front door in a couple of days.

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Some Lexington pharmacies weren’t surprised Amazon branched-out into its industry but, there is some concern.

“Medications are not t-shirts,” says Shelley Roberts, owner of Grassroots Pharmacy. “They’re not things you just buy from the store, they’re things that can truly affect you. If you receive the wrong size of a t-shirt, that’s easily fixed. If you receive the wrong medication, who are you gonna talk to?”

Roberts is worried because she feels Amazon patients will just receive medicine not healthcare.

“I think where the struggle is going to come is when there’s changes, when things are supposed to be discontinued, new things started.. prescriptions getting lost.. people able to talk to someone,” says Roberts.

She expects to lose some customers – those who just need a single prescription filled once a month, but most of her customers need one-on-one help with the several medications. Something she says differentiates her from the big box pharmacies.

Roberts says those stores are the ones worried.

The issue C&C pharmacy owner Chris Palutis has with Amazon is not with the online pharmacy but with its purchase of PillPack – a pharmacy that sorts your medication by dose, times you’re supposed to take it and delivers it to you.

“I think PillPack is going to end up hurting people because people can’t keep up with their medication changes and especially the people who need something likePillPack need it because they can’t keep up already,” says Palutis.

He says his pharmacy offers compliance packaging but if something changes with the medications, they will personally fix the pack and send you a new one. Palutis says PillPack just sends you your new medicines and you have to resort the pack. He says this could be harmful for older folks in need of personalized help.

Palutis says a big piece that will be missing for Amazon patients is in-person pharmacists.

Amazon points out that its pharmacy customers have phone and digital access to Amazon pharmacists who can consult and answer questions about medications. All medications require a prescription and Amazon won’t deliver most opioids.

The Amazon Pharmacy isn’t yet available in Kentucky and four other states.

We reached out to the big box stores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite-Aid for reaction. Below are the companies statements:

“The diversified and integrated model we’ve built allows us to meet people where they are, whether that’s in the community, in the home or in the palm of their hand.  We’re the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the world and provide our pharmacy customers with a wealth of clinical and other support services to improve their health.  While pharmacy is a core component of our business, CVS Health is so much more than your corner drug store.  We’re a trusted health services company that meets the needs of one in three Americans every year,” says a spokesperson for CVS Pharmacy. “New entrants to the highly competitive pharmacy market come as no surprise to us.  But CVS Health is a lot more than pharmacy – and pharmacy is a lot more than just delivering drugs.”

“Walgreens already provides a full and growing range of pharmacy, health and wellness solutions to our customers and patients, and we offer customized, free same-day and next-day delivery options that allow our customers to access our products and services when, where and how it is most convenient for them.  Our digital and online services include the industry-leading Walgreens app, downloaded more than 65 million times, and features our live Pharmacy Chat service and the Walgreens Find Care platform to provide customers with personalized care and connect them with extensive health resources. Walgreens offers a full complement of fast and easy pharmacy payment options, and provides our customers with savings and value through our Prescription Savings Club and the industry’s largest loyalty program with more than 100 million members. With more than 9000 stores in local communities across the country, Walgreens offers unparalleled access to a trusted and personal relationship and expertise with our network of more than 25,000 pharmacists nationwide, providing specialized support for chronic, complex conditions, medication therapy management and vaccinations,” says a Walgreens corporate spokesperson.

“Amazon’s announcement continues to validate the growth opportunity in the pharmacy space. However, pharmacy is not just a shopping transaction. Rite Aid pharmacists are trusted and accessible whole health experts that interact with customers up to 30 times a year. They are uniquely qualified to help customers understand their health conditions and prescriptions, provide whole health advice and serve as an essential link between customers and their broader healthcare teams. Our pharmacists also support their communities by providing health services like flu vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and soon COVID vaccines. That’s why we’re doubling down on our 6,300+ neighborhood pharmacists. And, Rite Aid already provides free same day delivery service, an updated digital experience and drive-through pick-up options to ensure convenient and reliable access to prescriptions. Additionally, our pharmacy benefit management company Elixir has more than 100 pharmacists and a specialty pharmacy to deliver highly personalized health-centric services to members and their families,” says Jim Peters, COO of Rite Aid.

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Christy Bollinger joined the ABC 36 news team as a reporter in March 2018. Christy comes from a little western Kentucky town called Cadiz. She graduated from Western Kentucky University in May 2017 with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Criminology. Christy is thrilled to be working at her dream job in her home state. She is passionate about storytelling and you can see her weekdays on ABC 36 News at 5 and 6 p.m. She's covered everything from visits from the sitting president and vice president, to high-profile murder cases. When not chasing stories, Christy loves nothing more than being at the beach and says life is just better with sand between your toes and waves crashing at your feet. She is also a big animal lover. She's a fur momma and her mini-Australian Shepherd, Milly, standard Australian Shepherd, Bennie, and her Maine Coon, Cheeto, are the loves of her life. Christy encourages you to send her any story ideas you may have. Find her on Facebook at Christy Bollinger ABC 36, tweet her @ChristyB_news, or email her at CBollinger@wtvq.com.