When Amazon turns its eye to a new industry, it can cause panic among established players and push them to make drastic moves. Amazon has long been rumored to be interested in the pharmaceutical market, and the latest indication came last week from CNBC, which reported that Amazon is meeting with generic drug-makers about jumping into the industry.
Amazon’s interest in the pharmaceutical business goes back decades. Amazon in 1999 invested in drugstore.com, the Bellevue, Wash.-based distributor of drugs, vitamins, and beauty products that traces its roots to the early days of the e-commerce revolution. Amazon was thought of as a possible buyer for the company before Walgreens scooped it up in 2011 for $429 million before shutting it down last year.
The CVS-Aetna deal represents an unprecedented moment, combining giants from the healthcare and retail worlds. The two companies see $750 million in synergies between them. But still, much of the attention in the aftermath of the announcement was on Amazon, and the role it played in the deal.
“CVS would never admit it, but this sort of pivot is Amazon’s doing,” Trip Miller, a managing partner at Gullane Capital Partners, a minor shareholder in Amazon, told The Street. “What they’re doing now is definitely based on Amazon’s interest.”
The acquisition combines CVS and its 9,700 stores with Aetna’s 44 million customers. The combined companies aim to create “community-based health hubs” at CVS stores that will help customers answer questions about health conditions, healthcare coverage and prescription drugs.
CVS stores will include areas dedicated to healthcare services, including “spaces for wellness, clinical and pharmacy services, vision, hearing, nutrition, beauty, and medical equipment.” The companies say they will be able to offer greater access to healthcare services outside of hospitals at a lower cost to customers.
“We look forward to working with the talented people at Aetna to position the combined company as America’s front door to quality health care, integrating more closely the work of doctors, pharmacists, other health care professionals and health benefits companies to create a platform that is easier to use and less expensive for consumers,” Larry J. Merlo, CVS Health CEO said in a statement.