Will Amazon's Basic Care OTC Line Disrupt the Market?

MARCH 07, 2018
Without much fanfare, Amazon recently launched a line of generic OTC medications called Basic Care.1 This line will compete with Giant Eagle's TopCare, Target's Up & Up, and Walmart's Equate brands. It is interesting that Amazon did not use the company name in the name of the product line, but "Basic Care medicines are anything but basic. In fact, they are basically everything you expect from name brands, except the branding," the company said. Amazon is taking a minimalistic approach used by other companies in other sectors such as Brandless, which offers food products and household supply items.
So what does Basic Care offer? The products are broken down into the following categories: allergy/cold/cough; children's; digestive; feminine hygiene; hair growth; pain; and stop smoking. Each category offers the basics, ranging from traditional analgesics and antihistamines to cough remedies. The lineup does not include topicals, wound care, or other targeted therapies. Amazon is using cool infographics to showcase what the drugs are treating. For instance, the allergy/cold/cough page has a chart showing the difference between allergy and cold symptoms. But it stops there, as there no further guidance or anyone to ask for recommendations. 

Some of the categories seem odd. For instance, when I feel a cold coming on and need an analgesic or another treatment, I am not going to order it online. I will instead go to a pharmacy, supermarket, or even gas stations because I want relief now. But for those just stocking up generally on medications they want in their cabinets, Basic Care has them covered. 
But it is cost in bulk where Basic Care really shines. Basic Care's products are cheaper to buy in bulk compared with other store brands, except maybe dollar store versions. So, for those who want to keep certain OTC products on hand, this is a smart choice. Couple this with a Dash button, and it looks like a winner for some Prime customers. 

One way for Basic Care to become more mainsteam is by offering consumers recommended options. Buying diapers? How about some pediatric medications as well? And perhaps the company could add in a symptom checker to provide a quick recommendation. And if Amazon continues to open brick-and-mortar stores, Basic Care products could also be a good fit in those.
So, should other generic brands fear Amazon's entrance into this arena? Yes and no. There will always be a need for immediate relief and a corner store and supermarket fit that need. Unless one-day delivery goes nationwide and can happen in hours, most consumers will continue to seek immediate relief for their ailments. 


1. Basic Care. Amazon. amazon.com/stores/page/59E20785-D133-47A4-B2C8-2FF309221217?ingress=0&visitId=a9ec68c1-08e5-4e7a-85cd-a5fb05a881dd&ref=ast_p_ei. Accessed March 7, 2018.

Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Timothy Dy Aungst, PharmD, is an associate professor of pharmacy practice at MCPHS University. He graduated from Wilkes University Nesbitt School of Pharmacy and completed a PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at St. Luke's University Hospital, and then a Clinical Geriatric Fellowship at MCPHS University. He is passionate about the rise of technology in health care and its application to pharmacy. He has published primarily on the role of mobile technology and mHealth, and made multiple national and international presentations on those topics. He blogs at TheDigitalApothecary.com, and you can find him on Twitter @TDAungst.