Amazon to buy PillPack in drug retailing push

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Amazon said Thursday that it's buying PillPack, an online pharmacy startup that ships pre-packaged medications based on prescribed patient dosages.

The move comes amid speculation that Amazon was planning to get into the pharmacy or drug-distribution business.

"PillPack's visionary team has a combination of deep pharmacy experience and a focus on technology", Amazon CEO of Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke said in a statement.

Amazon has always been rumored to be interested in the pharmacy business, and the entry by a powerful new player could unsettle a business dominated by large American chains including CVS and Walgreens. The company pre-sorts pills into date- and time-stamped packages for patients, making it easier for them keep track of them-a key consideration for many patients, particularly those taking multiple prescriptions as many seniors do.

It also coordinates refills and renewals, and makes sure shipments are sent on time.

At the time, Parker argued that the company was working to protect its monopoly on home-delivered prescriptions, which Express Scripts disputed.

Amazon's purchase of an online chemist that opens an immediate nationwide drug network in the United States has shaved billions off the value of three major pharmacy chains.

Shares of drug wholesalers McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen also fell sharply.

"At this juncture we are not anxious about Amazon's entrance into the prescription market", Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Steven Halper said in a note. Walmart was reportedly interested in buying PillPack earlier his year, but Amazon seems to have won out in the end. Earlier this year, the technology giant announced its move into USA employee health care via a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan, while reports have been surfacing for a while that it was looking to enter the lucrative pharmaceutical realm. The three companies said they would use big-data analysis and other high-tech tools to improve care and cut waste.