Amazon acquires pharmacy startup PillPack; purchase price thought to be near $1b


The internet giant said on Thursday it would buy online pharmacy PillPack, a small but significant step into the USA healthcare sector.

PillPack holds pharmacy licenses in all 50 states, has URAC and VIPPS accreditation and is an in-network pharmacy with most PBMs including major Medicare Part D plans.

PillPack, which is aimed at consumers who take multiple medications, presorts customers' prescriptions and helps manage refills and shipping.

Amazon's acquisition of PillPack follows a larger-though less defined-move into the healthcare sector for the online giant.

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But today's deal comes with few details and no promise that Amazon will be able to scale up PillPack's business, which earned about $100 million in 2017.

CVS fell 8% in early trading.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, already under pressure after its third-quarter earnings report, tumbled 9.9 percent after touching a more than 3-1/2-year low. Walgreens was already trading lower after reporting lower same-store sales at its USA pharmacies. Amazon says it expects the deal to close during the second half of this year, pending regulatory approval.

Last year, a PillPack representative said the company is the "only independent pharmacy that now delivers medications nationwide". CVS is buying insurer Aetna for while Cigna, another insurer, is scooping up pharmacy benefits manager Express Scripts. Those ties will give Amazon access to much of the prescription drug market in the U.S. "And for those patients that do desire to transition, we offer the option to ship their prescriptions to their home from our pharmacies or obtain the prescriptions through our Caremark mail facilities".

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

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan announced a joint venture in January, saying USA healthcare costs were rising too fast and holding back economic growth. It counts Accel Partners, Atlas Venture, CRV, Founder Collective, Menlo Ventures, Sherpa Ventures, Techstars among its investors.

On its own, PillPack had raised $118 million in funding from venture capital firms and has been valued at $360 million. "I strongly believe that the role of the physical pharmacy will continue to be very, very important in the future".

He said Walgreens knew that PillPack was for sale as "it had been for sale for a while", but that the retailer wouldn't do deals based on emotions or make moves that could destroy value.

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