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Online pharmacy

Industry voices concern as Amazon considering pharmacy move

UK pharmacists have responded with concern to reports that internet giant Amazon is considering a move into the pharmacy market.

It is not the first time it has been rumoured that Amazon is planning an online pharmacy offer, but the company is now thought to be bringing in a new general manager to formulate a strategy.

According to news reports based on sources close to the company, the idea has become more serious and they are in discussion with industry experts.

A further source was claimed to have said the online retailer was starting to recruit more broadly from pharmacy.

Amazon has so far declined to comment.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief pharmacist at the National Pharmacy Association, the trade association for independent community pharmacy in the UK, says the rumour that Amazon is going to launch a pharmacy business has been floating around for some time and it is worrying.

“The most valuable aspect of community pharmacy is the interaction with the patient,” she says. “Medicines cannot be compared to other products that you can sell online.”

Hannbeck adds that there was a reason that 2.2 million people signed a petition to save community pharmacy. “There are many benefits of the face-to-face interaction with the patient. There is so much more you get from seeing a patient, understanding their background and having the opportunity to ask them about other issues they may be having.

“We don’t know what Amazon is up to and they haven’t confirmed anything but we have concerns about what that could do to pharmacy in general.”

She adds: “We need to be loud and clear and raise the concerns now.”

The reports of Amazon’s plans are focused on its market in the United States, where it recently started selling medical supplies and equipment. The organisation has also placed job adverts for its professional health care programme.

Japanese press reported earlier this year that Amazon’s Japanese site is now selling pharmaceuticals with pharmacist approval.

Online pharmacies in the UK are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council — the same way as any other pharmacy.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20202826

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