Can Amazon pose a threat to traditional community pharmacy?

Reshma Trilochun Monday 26th March 2018 06:30 EDT

Amazon, the online platform where one can purchase books, gadgets, clothing and even watch movies and TV shows, could also become a portal from where one can purchase their medication. Vitamins and over the counter medicines are already available to buy from Amazon. However, in the latter part of 2017, Amazon was on the brink of making a big decision whether they would move to selling prescribed medication online as well. This decision, which Amazon is yet to make, has both, several pros and cons but there is no denying that this move can prove detrimental to the traditional community pharmacy model if people opt to buy their prescribed medication from this online portal.

A majority of sectors, be it business or education, have embraced digitisation as the way forward, however, the digital move has change the attitude and ways of how consumers buy their products. For example, retailers with prominent high street presences are being rattled by the demands for the convenience the internet provides.

New technological advances, such as the iPhone has changed how one listens or buys music, while Netflix has become the norm and most popular choice when we think of watching movies or TV series, causing the once prevalent choice for video rental service, Blockbuster to close.

Amazon, undoubtedly, is an extremely popular online portal where surely one must have come across, if not purchased something from their site. If Amazon decides to venture into this domain, it may provide people with the easy facility of purchasing their medication in the comfort of their homes at a touch of a button. But according to a community pharmacist from Sunderland, Umesh Patel MBE, this could be a very “dangerous” move. He shared, “Buying medication from such online portals is not only dangerous for patients, but also for the traditional community pharmacy model. Your local pharmacy provides you with free advice and also acts as a point of control when it comes to your medication, ensuring that no gaffs are made in terms of providing the right medication. Although it would be easy to buy medicines online, will Amazon be providing patients with free advice? Will there be that facility for patients to go to them with any health-related queries like they are able to do so at their local pharmacy? I do not think so.”

Umesh Patel continued, “Amazon is good for books, clothing and technological items, but not for medication. They cannot provide you with any advise on medicines. Only community pharmacists in community pharmacy can provide you with advise on medication. Besides, most of your local pharmacy can provide you with your medication on the same day, whereas with Amazon you'll have to wait a couple of days, and if there is a postal strike or bad weather conditions, you will have to wait longer. So if prescribed medication is available from Amazon, it will be dangerous and affect community pharmacy. ”

Whether Amazon is to take the plunge into selling prescribed medication is yet to be decided but the thought of them venturing into this arena can suggest that they can pose a threat to traditional community pharmacy.

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