pharmacies by Amazon
E-commerce giant Amazon is offering sign-up bonuses of up to $3000 at select facilities in the United States as it ramps up recruitment for the busy holiday season. (Photo by David Becker / AFP)

Medicines should not be transported as if they were any other merchandise in those famous cardboard boxes with arrows that curve into a smile, because that wouldn’t comply with the protocols for handling pharmaceuticals, at least in Mexico.

This is the view of Marcos Pascual Cruz, sales director for the National Association of Pharmacies of Mexico (Anafarmex), who in an interview with Tec Review states that Amazon’s objective is to monopolize the market through a platform that allows the issuing of digital prescriptions and the dispensing of medicines directly at home.

The intention, already crystallized in the recent launch of Amazon Pharmacy in the United States, caused repercussions on the stock market, as the Seattle-based company’s shares rose a little more than 1% on New York’s Nasdaq.

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Breaching the law

So, what would happen if Amazon competed with pharmacies in Mexico? Here’s Pascual Cruz’s answer:

“There’d be a threat to privacy rights regarding patient prescriptions. If Amazon begins to amass all this data from millions of patients in Mexico, it wouldn’t necessarily serve the country in matters of serious health research.”

There’s a certain amount of distrust from those who work in the country’s health chain that the information Amazon began to generate would be redirected to economic interests unrelated to curing the diseases of Mexicans, according to this director.

“This would throw out of the window all the regulatory framework and good practices that are in place for the preparation, manufacture, distribution, and delivery of medicine, which shouldn’t leave the pharmacy,” he says.

Pascual gives a specific example to illustrate the risks that breaching the current system of good practices would cause:

“If an innovative laboratory like Pfizer, with all its quality management system, delivers the medicine to the pharmacy and then that medicine is taken on a bicycle or by someone who’s smoking, without hygiene, who doesn’t even use gloves or a lab coat, and who doesn’t know the importance of the delivery of a medicine, then all the rules would be broken,” he states.

The Anafarmex sales director says the pharmacy is responsible for delivery of the medicine because, according to the law, it has personnel who are certified in the handling and dispensing of medicines.

“Amazon is an e-business without personalized service. There’s no one there to attend, check, validate the prescription, and deliver the medicine like at a pharmacy counter.”

However, Pascual clarifies that Anafarmex isn’t opposed to the digital era, to people in some way receiving medicines at home, as long as the process is regulated, which it isn’t as yet in Mexico.

“So, the best thing is for the pharmacy to be responsible for delivering the medicine and abiding by good practices,” says this director, who is also the coordinator of the Asesoría en Farmacias (Pharmacy Advice) site.

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Rearranging the board benefits the final consumer

For Andrés Sagrado Strik, CEO of Éxito Digital, a marketing agency in Spain and Mexico, Amazon Pharmacy represents a total paradigm shift when it comes to health and wellbeing in the United States.

“This has to do with the most powerful distribution platform in the world. Pharmacy retail is going to have big challenges, because Amazon’s privileged position is going to force them get down to work to be able to compete or else they’ll disappear,” he says in an interview with Tec Review.

In any case, regardless of the huge power of Amazon, Sagrado explains that pharmacies are obligated to improve their service, which will always be beneficial for patients.

“When a new player enters the market and hits the table, it forces the other players to reassess the situation and renounce profit margins that belonged to them until now, because they were pre-allocated in the price of medicines,” explains the digital marketing expert.

Finally, Sagrado Strik says that Amazon is entering our lives at levels that were unimaginable three years ago, and gives his point of view regarding the way in which this market should develop as follows:

“I’m a supporter of the free economy. So, if one agent knows how to act well, you have to know how to do something better or different if you want to compete.”