Tech

Amazon to deliver prescriptions via drone

Customers in College Station, Texas, can now get meds delivered within an hour.
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Amazon

· 3 min read

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Amazon is dropping prescriptions from the sky—literally.

The tech giant announced on October 18 that it has started a prescription drug drone delivery service in College Station, Texas, and patients can get medications delivered within an hour of placing an order—at no additional delivery cost.

Customers in College Station only need to select “free drone delivery in less than 60 minutes” on Amazon Pharmacy’s website when checking out. The service is available for more than 500 medications, including flu, asthma, and pneumonia treatments, according to Amazon.

“We’re taught from the first days of medical school that there is a golden window that matters in clinical medicine,” Vin Gupta, Amazon Pharmacy’s chief medical officer, said in a statement. “That’s the time between when a patient feels unwell and when they’re able to get treatment. We’re working hard at Amazon to dramatically narrow the golden window from diagnosis to treatment, and drone delivery marks a significant step forward.”

Amazon spokesperson Jessica Bardoulas told Healthcare Brew the company chose College Station for the prescription drone delivery because Amazon’s drone delivery testing program, Prime Air, has been operating in the area since December 2022, and has already “provided thousands of deliveries of common household items to date.”

The company decided to add prescription delivery to its drone delivery offering due to customer demand, Calsee Hendrickson, Prime Air’s director of product, program, and tech, said in a statement.

“Medications were the first thing our customers said they also want delivered quickly via drone. Speed and convenience top the wish list for health purchases,” Hendrickson said.

There is a bit of prep work for customers to do before a drone can drop meds at their residence. They go through an onboarding process with Prime Air, and then Amazon provides a delivery marker for the customer to place in a safe place outside their home where the drone can detect it.

When the drone arrives at a customer’s address, it detects the delivery marker, hovers above it, uses computer vision to make sure there are no people or animals in the way, and drops the package onto the marker, Amazon said in a press release.

“We’re making the process of getting the acute and chronic medications customers need easier, faster, and more affordable,” John Love, VP of Amazon Pharmacy and Pillpack, said in a statement. “Rapid delivery changes the prescription delivery paradigm from days to minutes, and represents a dramatic improvement over what patients are used to.”

Other companies have tested out prescription drug delivery via drone before, including CVS, which partnered with UPS to test drone delivery in 2019. But that program has since ended, a CVS spokesperson told the AP.

Intermountain Health, a Salt Lake City-based health system, also partnered with drone company Zipline in 2021 to test prescription delivery. The company is continuing to expand that program, the AP reported.

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.