Amazon: Information and Its Pharma Play

June 29, 2018

Amazon sells quite a few health related products. One I found interesting is Amazon’s hydrogen peroxide. That’s an interesting chemical, and I wondered who has order a higher concentration version. I assumed that Amazon could answer that question, among others; for example, who bought certain books describing the use of the compound.

I thought about Amazon’s health products when I read “Amazon to Buy Online Pharmacy PillPack, Jumping Into the Drug Business.” I think the deal is an interesting one, but my view is different. Hey, I live in rural Kentucky, one of the states associated with opioid abuse.

The news about the deal had an immediate impact on the outfits dedicated to putting store fronts selling soft drinks, batteries, and snacks on every corner. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that these Walgreen-type outfits are distribution points for medications prescribed by doctors. Amazon seems to be serious about disrupting how many people pick up their medicines, fill out forms for insurance, and provide endlessly repetitive details like their date of birth, insurance data, and home address.

Amazon assumes that it can make this traditional doctor-pharmacy-consumer business more efficient and make a buck along the way.

Several thoughts crossed my mind as I read the NYT story. Not surprisingly, these have not be mentioned in the NYT story or the other coverage I have scanned.

Let me share a handful of questions which struck me after reading the NYT write up.

  1. Will Amazon be able to determine what individuals are acquired specific medicines and place these data on a timeline?
  2. Will Amazon be able to determine what medications are flowing to specific geographic regions; for example, specific zip codes within the Commonwealth of Kentucky or any other geocoded area?
  3. Will Amazon be able to pinpoint the physicians, dentists, etc. who are prescribing specific medicines and array those data on a timeline or a compound output like those available from Palantir Gotham or IBM Analysts Notebook?
  4. Can Amazon cross correlate these medicine related data with other specific Amazon customer behavior?
  5. Can Amazon provide insights about possible improper script issuance, medical fraud, or other similar activity?

I assume that Amazon may not have these questions. Amazon sells books.

I want to raise a final question:

What if Amazon can process these drug related data in a way that reveals patterns, identifies abusers, or provides data to flag medical fraud?

  • If the answer is no, that’s okay with most Amazon customers.
  • If the answer is yes, that suggests a number of other questions.

Amazon is an interesting company indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2018


2 Responses to “Amazon: Information and Its Pharma Play”

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