Rapper Nas invested early in PillPack, Amazon's latest buy

PillPack prepackages and mails consumers pills.									Pat Greenhouse  The Boston Globe

PillPack prepackages and mails consumers pills. Pat Greenhouse The Boston Globe

The company picked up independent pharmacy PillPack for an undisclosed amount on Thursday, allowing it access to PillPack's pharmacy distribution system created to make getting prescriptions simpler for patients. The service is available in 49 states, with its main pharmacy located in Manchester, New Hampshire.

"PillPack's visionary team has a combination of deep pharmacy experience and a focus on technology", noted Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO for worldwide consumer. The acquisition will close in the second half of the year.

Amazon on Thursday announced it had signed an agreement to acquire PillPack, an online pharmacy. Led by Parker, a licensed pharmacist, it was an early entrant into the field of online medication delivery.

Insurance companies and drug-benefit managers have struck a series of deals in recent months designed in part to thwart a potential big splash in the health world from Amazon.

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"This provides an avenue for Amazon to disrupt major pharmacy chains the way that they've disrupted booksellers, pet supplies, clothing and other big-box retailers", said Lisa Bielamowicz, president of consultancy Gist Healthcare.

CVS shares tumbled nine percent in opening trading on the news, while Walgreens Boots Alliance slumped 10.5 percent.

PillPack, a privately held startup, has attracted substantial interest because the company boasts it can make it easier and faster for consumers to get a prescription filled than at corner drugstores.

The move comes amid speculation that Amazon was planning to get into the pharmacy or drug-distribution business.

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Some analysts played down the immediate threat Amazon poses.

"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. "And I think that that's more likely than not what you're going to see today"'.

The company's backers include Accel Partners, Atlas Venture, CRV, Founder Collective, Menlo Ventures, Sherpa Ventures and Techstars. It had raised $123 million in financing, most recently $5 million in debt from TriplePoint Venture Growth in August 2017, according to data from industry research firm PitchBook. The companies said the deal would have to clear regulatory hurdles before it is complete.

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