Amazon makes big foray into health care with PillPack acquisition

Above PillPack

Amazon announced Thursday that it is acquiring the online pharmacy PillPack, a sign of its long-rumored push into the pharmacy business.

The news sent the shares of drugstore giants CVS Health (cvs), Walgreens Boots Alliance (wba), and Rite Aid (rad) plunging between 8% and 10%. Shares of drug wholesalers Mckesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen were also down. Startups like San Francisco-based Nimble Pharmacy, which recently expanded to Seattle, are also taking a swing at the space.

Amazon, which has become a retail behemoth since its start as an online bookseller in 1994, is known for its willingness to forego profit, while slashing prices to win customers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Amazon referred to the deal as a "definitive merger agreement".

The announcement comes one week after Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway revealed the CEO of their new healthcare tech company.

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"In our view, this is only the first play in what will be an increasingly aggressive strategy by Amazon to develop a much more significant presence in the pharmacy market", he said.

Someday soon, the workers in Amazon-branded shirts and vans could be delivering customers' medication. The three companies said they would use big-data analysis and other high-tech tools to improve care and cut waste. It also handles deliveries, refills, and adjustments to medications.

The company had attracted interest from Walmart Inc, which was looking to buy it for under $1 billion, CNBC had reported in April.

It expects to complete the deal in the second half of the year.

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