Tech

Amazon Pharmacy VP John Love on the tech giant’s healthcare goals

Love said Amazon Pharmacy aims to make the pharmacy experience cheaper and more convenient.
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John Love

· 5 min read

Since conquering the e-commerce realm, Amazon has gotten into seemingly every industry imaginable—and healthcare is no exception.

Amazon has slowly inched into healthcare since its $750 million purchase of online pharmacy startup PillPack in 2018, after which the company rolled out the now-defunct telehealth service Amazon Care in 2019. Then the tech giant started Amazon Pharmacy in 2020, along with several new offerings under the segment in the years since, such as RxPass, a $5 monthly subscription for unlimited generic drugs.

At the beginning of 2022, Amazon veteran John Love was named VP of Amazon Pharmacy and PillPack, and he has been tasked with overseeing all of the company’s pharmacy operations. Love has been with Amazon since 2006 and has worked in several departments, including consumer electronics and music.

In his new role, Love oversees all of Amazon Pharmacy’s clinical teams and forms partnerships between Amazon and payers, drugmakers, employers, providers, and health systems. Love told Healthcare Brew that, through Amazon Pharmacy, he’s trying to make the pharmacy experience cheaper and more convenient.

“The more we can make it transparent, the more we can make it low cost. And the more we can make it convenient, we see indications that that’s going to help adherence, and that’s going to help long-term health outcomes,” he said.

Goals and priorities

As he entered Amazon’s healthcare space, Love said what surprised him was the fact that the majority of prescriptions in the US are dispensed the same way they have been for decades.

“It’s really wholly owned by you—the customer or the patient. [You] go drive to the store, stand in line, and potentially have an embarrassing or personal health discussion in a public forum,” Love said. “That’s maybe not the most ideal experience for healthcare.”

Plus, he added, “you often don’t find out the price of the medication or the coverage of the medication until the point of purchase. All those things stack up as to why 30% of Americans didn’t pick up a script last year.”

Those inconveniences are what Amazon Pharmacy is trying to solve, Love said.

One of Amazon Pharmacy’s top priorities is making prescription delivery faster, particularly in pharmacy deserts, Love said. One way it’s doing that is with its drone delivery service in Texas, through which patients can get prescriptions delivered via drone within an hour of ordering.

Amazon Pharmacy is also working to expand its medication affordability programs, he said. Aside from RxPass, the company recently introduced a feature on its website that automatically applies manufacturer coupons for brand-name drugs at checkout.

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Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

“I think there’s more work to do to save customers money and save customers time, and so that’ll be the theme,” Love said. “The launches that we share in the back half of the year and in the future will really anchor around those capabilities.”

In terms of measuring success in Amazon Pharmacy, Love said the biggest thing he looks at is “are we helping more customers with their pharmacy needs, and then we look at saving money and saving time.”

Some analysts are skeptical

Some analysts aren’t convinced Amazon can make a difference in healthcare. Healthcare Brew previously reported that when Amazon announced RxPass in January, analysts at investment banking advisory firm Evercore expressed doubt that it would make much of a splash, and said Amazon is still a “relatively small player in pharmacy.”

But according to Love, the RxPass program has “exceeded our expectations in customer engagement and adoption.” 

“I just think it’s a great simplifier,” Love said of RxPass. “I think what RxPass did specifically is made it super simple and transparent. It’s $5 a month. These are longitudinal medications that are good for continuity of care.”

Amazon Pharmacy Chief Medical Officer Vin Gupta previously told Healthcare Brew that RxPass wasn’t available in eight states, and that Amazon was working to make it available in more locations in the future. Love said Amazon has since added RxPass to more states, though it’s still not available in all 50. “We are working with state-level regulators to continue expansion of that program,” Love said.

A look ahead

Looking to the future, Love acknowledged there’s still a lot of work to be done to make a big difference in the pharmacy space, and Amazon by itself isn’t going to crack the code.

“There’s no one leader with no one company that’s going to be able to do this alone,” he said.

But that also means there are a lot of opportunities to innovate, Love added. “The fact that the pharmacy industry hasn’t really materially improved or evolved for customers—in decades—I think customers are hungry for different options. More convenience, more affordability, more transparency,” he said. “We just want the pharmacy experience to be really seamless. Very connected, low cost, high convenience. And that’s what compels us in what we think we can do to help provide choice and offerings for customers, and I think others see the same opportunity.”

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.