Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Amazon’s PillPack deal puts PBMs, advisers on notice

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Insurance industry leaders predict the way medications are purchased today could come to an end in the next five years, potentially doing away with pharmacy benefit managers and how benefit brokers work with insurance product sales.

That new healthcare landscape may emerge in the wake of Amazon’s purchase of the online prescription drug company PillPack, which was announced last week. The deal — which gives the online retail giant the infrastructure to deliver prescription medications in the U.S. — could potentially make redundant middlemen such as PBMs and even some benefit advisers from the healthcare industry.

Tyrone's Commentary:

Those who believe this is the end for PBMs are being myopic. One, Amazon was in the mail-order pharmacy business a few years back, with drugstore.com, and failed. Sure they've learned from this failure. But, the point is it isn't easy nor a forgone conclusion the PillPack acquisition alone will serve as a catalyst for widespread cuts in pharmacy costs. Second, PBMs offer a valuable service and as a result PBMs who offer radical transparency will survive. Naysayers who say this is the end for all PBMs don't fully understand all the services a PBM offers nor the impact of those services. One thing is for sure, if Amazon is successful it will force non-fiduciary PBMs to become much more efficient.

Rob Piazza, product manager, analytics, at Benefitfocus, says payers and PBMs had many chances to work together in the past to better control rising drug costs, but they did not do enough.

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