Amazon's Vast Offerings May Jeopardize Push into Pharmacy

A report suggests Amazon may be selling improperly marketed supplements and medical devices.

Currently, nearly anything can be bought on Amazon. The online retailer prides themselves on offering their customers a wide selection of products with fast shipping. But could these products affect the retail giant’s ability to make the move into the pharmacy space?

Amazon pharmacy has been a buzz phrase since June 2017, around the same time when they acquired Whole Foods. Specialty Pharmacy Times recently broke a story questioning whether Amazon may partner with Express Scripts, citing the close proximity of their Indianapolis, Indiana locations, which is where Amazon is licensed for drug distribution.

A MarketWatch report now suggests that some health products currently sold on Amazon—including actual snake oil—may jeopardize their entrance into pharmacy.

The report also suggests that Amazon has sold at least 1 device that was not approved by the FDA and supplements that claim to cure certain conditions, including opioid withdrawal and pain.

An expert told MarketWatch that the online retailer would need to make significant changes to ensure that they do not receive regulatory pushback or credibility issues when applying for pharmacy licenses.

Nicodemo Fiorentino, a pharmaceutical and medical device regulatory expert, also told Market Insider that Amazon customers “do not understand the complexities of drugs and devices.” The lack of understanding may result in customers being misled into unnecessarily purchasing a product.

The article noted that a report in The Sun previously found that Amazon was selling misleading products, including an unapproved cancer cure. Furthermore, a Vox article suggested that the products were also available on the US market.

Additionally, Amazon sold a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit to relieve pain without FDA approval and ear candles, which the regulatory agency has warned against, according to the article. Notably, some devices have been sold with the FDA logo or claims that it has been approved.

Despite these allegations, Amazon’s website says that products must comply with laws and supplements cannot claim to cure, prevent, or treat diseases, according to the article.

While many of the aforementioned listings were taken down by Amazon, MarketWatch said that similar products are still listed.

“Sellers are required to comply with all laws and regulations, as well as Amazon’s policies, and may lose their selling privileges if they fail to do so,” Amazon told MarketWatch in a statement. “We monitor the products sold on our website for product safety concerns and, when appropriate, we remove products, reach out to sellers, manufacturers and government agencies for additional information or take other actions.”

While these offerings can affect patients who believe the products they purchase have been approved, they may also face action from the FDA. Regulatory action may prevent Amazon from obtaining the necessary licensing, according to Carmen Catizone, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Although the argument could be made that Amazon is a selling platform and should not be held accountable for the claims companies who sell products via this platform, the retailer still displays ads for questionable products, according to the article.

The expansion into pharmacy may require Amazon to remove certain products from its offerings, which may affect profits and how customers view their business, the article concluded.