Amazon just got a license to sell drugs
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Amazon has quietly acquired wholesale pharmacy licenses in Nevada, Arizona, North Dakota, Louisiana, Alabama, New Jersey, Michigan, Connecticut, Idaho, New Hampshire, Oregon and Tennessee. An Amazon spokesperson called the idea of Amazon Pharmacies “rumor and speculation.”
But after the Whole Foods purchase, selling pharmaceuticals too makes a lot of sense. Plus, why would they seek a pharmacy license and post a job for a “pharmacies market general manager” if they didn’t want to sell drugs?
Hacker News commenters are all over the story.
“Can’t wait for Amazon Airlines.”
Another predicted a line of generic drugs, “Amazon Basics.”
“Amazon doesn’t need to make money on it. … They just want to dominate every aspect of everyone’s retail existence. I’m sure they’re perfectly happy to make zero profit for a long while and figure it out later, when they’re the only ones left in business.”
On the other hand, “American healthcare is completely non-competitive. No pricing competition, high barriers of entry, and completely entrenched players. Any new players would be a win.”
But take a look at that last argument. The current pharmaceutical industry is non-competitive; therefore, a disruptor like Amazon could help break up the big, entrenched powers and bring down prices.
The problem with this idea is that Amazon isn’t in the business of adding their friendly new competition to existing markets. Amazon is in the business of entering new markets and murdering everyone else until Jeff Bezos, bloodied and heaving, is the only one left standing.
This is what Amazon thinks about competition:
Amazon is the opposite of the “illusion of choice.” The company is very good at getting you everything you need. It’s an extraordinary company. You simply wouldn’t choose another online retailer. (It’s why, full disclosure, I own Amazon stock.) There’s no illusion involved: Amazon Studios, Amazon Web Services. Even Alexa and Audible—you know they’re Bezos.
So we accept the corporate creep because the service is outstanding. We welcome Amazon’s expansion into disparate parts of our lives because they make good TV programs and bring us more Tide whenever we press the button. And we assume that Amazon might be able to fix some of the biggest problems in our healthcare system, such as high drug costs and limited accessibility for the elderly, disabled and those in rural areas.
The thing is, we already have something that’s supposed to fix problems like equal access to health care. And this thing takes a percentage of our paychecks every two weeks in order to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Those objectives are enshrined in the government’s mandate, and if it isn’t living up to expectations we’re empowered to replace it.
What’s Amazon’s job? To separate us from as much of our money as we’re willing to give it.
What do we do if we don’t like what it’s doing? Nothing, if it’s the only company selling what we need.
“How we can claim to have anti-trust laws while Amazon exists is a serious question,” one of my editors at Latterly just pointed out.
Amazon is going to be the Acme Corporation from Looney Tunes, white-labeling everything you consume. (Perhaps not the anvils and exploding tennis balls.)
Encouraging competition doesn’t mean taking the market away from one company and giving it to another. Even The Economist is saying there’s too much consolidation in the American economy. “A new commitment to competition could be the source of optimism that America is desperately searching for.”
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