Amazon has always been rumoured to be interested in the pharmacy business, and its entry could disrupt a business dominated by large American chains such as CVS and Walgreens.
Amazon.com Inc said on Thursday it would buy small online pharmacyPillPack, a move that will put the world's biggest online retailer in direct competition with drugstore chains, drug distributors and pharmacy benefit managers.
While few details have been released regarding the acquisition, Amazon states that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Amazon will acquire PillPack, which was previously in talks with Walmart (WMT) that had the startup valued just shy of $1 billion.
The online pharmacy also coordinates refills and ships prescriptions to customers' homes.
The deal seems to have spooked shareholders of major pharmacy stocks, like Rite Aid (-11.11%), Walgreens Boot Alliance (-10.5%) and CVS (-7.8%), all of which together lost more than $12.8 billion in market value on Thursday.
"This is the beginning of the pharmacy industry shakeout".
CVS shares tumbled 8.6% in pre-market trade on the news, while Walgreens slumped 8.5%.
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PillPack, which launched in 2014, is available in every USA state except Hawaii.
TJ Parker, PillPack co-founder and Chief Executive Officer also issued a statement saying; "PillPack makes it simple for any customer to take the right medication at the right time, and feel healthier". Shares of drug wholesalers McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen all fell. Insiders reportedly said Amazon will pay $1 billion for the company.
Amazon's acquisition of PillPack follows a larger-though less defined-move into the healthcare sector for the online giant.
"Longer term, Amazon will become a key player in health care, but the timeline is likely longer than most expected, given last-mile delivery infrastructure needs to scale first".
Some analysts played down the immediate threat.
PillPack has a license to operate in all 50 states in the USA and has other accreeditations such as URAC AND VIPPS, but it doesn't seem to be operational in worldwide markets. 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.
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