Amazon’s online pharmacy, PillPack, is being accused of getting access to patient data it wasn’t entitled to, through a third party, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
A company that provides the tech to route prescriptions, Surescripts, accused PillPack of the indiscretion and went public in a news release. The conflict illustrates the trouble that PillPack faces to try and ingratiate itself into an entrenched sector.
PillPack offers customers multiple medications separated and labeled by day and time, to help customers who take many medications (and have trouble remembering days and dosages) simplify the process.
PillPack uses a third-party software vendor called ReMy Health to get the medication histories from customers, after they explicitly allow the company to do so. Surescripts said it has referred the issue to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The prescription drug market is worth about $424 billion, many legacy companies in the industry act as gatekeepers and it’s difficult for newcomers to break in without access to the information they control.
Doctors and hospitals purchase patient data from Surescripts. It’s owned by a company that includes Cigna Corp’s Express Scripts and CVS Health, which are the biggest holders of RX benefits in the country, covering around 175 million people. The consortium also operates a large mail-order pharmacy.
“The competitive backdrop is Amazon trying to get into this market and you’re seeing points of pressure from the incumbents who don’t want to make it any easier,” said Michael Newshel, an Evercore ISI analyst.
PillPack’s access to Surescript data is paramount to the company because of the nature of its business. PillPack needs complete, not just partial, prescription information to make sure it gives patients all the information they need, and to make sure drugs don’t interact with each other in a harmful way, according to PillPack spokeswoman Jacquelyn Miller.
“The core question is whether Surescripts will allow customers to share their medication history with pharmacies and if not, why not?” Miller said.
Surescript says it never authorized access for PillPack.
“We don’t have an agreement with PillPack for this medication history offering, and PillPack’s NPI never showed up in our system,” said Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton.
ReMy said the company’s decision seems to be financially motivated.
“Surescripts’s claims are unfounded, false and appear to be part of their overall market strategy,” a ReMy spokesperson said.