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Amazon’s Healthy 13% Sales Rise Is the Prescription for a Booming UK Online Healthcare Market

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Amazon’s US pharmacy and clinic marketplace results have helped drive a 13% sales increase. London Medical Laboratory says the results should herald an e-commerce health sector boom here in the UK.

Amazon’s impressive Q3 (July–September) 13% sales increase has been fuelled by the rapid development of its pharmacy and clinic marketplaces in the US. London Medical Laboratory, specialising in making blood testing accessible, says the UK e-commerce health sector is likely to experience similar growth in the near future.

Dr. Avinash Hari Narayanan (MBChB), Clinical Lead at London Medical Laboratory, says: “Amazon’s net sales increased 13% to $143.1 billion (almost £118 billion) in its third quarter, compared with $127.1 billion (almost £105 billion) in the third quarter of 2022. It’s not hard to see where a lot of that success was achieved. Amazon’s new healthcare products and services have helped drive this growth, indicating a booming direct-to-consumer healthcare market.”

Amazon doesn’t list the results of its healthcare service sales separately, but the overall division they are included in (which also includes other services such as branded credit cards) made $1.22 billion in Amazon’s Q3 alone. That’s a prescription for success.

Among its recent health sector successes, the Amazon Clinic virtual healthcare marketplace is now available across the US to provide care for more than 35 conditions. This service bypasses queues for medical appointments by offering 24/7 video visits or messaging with a doctor or nurse practitioner. Prescriptions are either issued to the patient’s chosen pharmacy or sent through the Amazon Pharmacy marketplace. In some areas, there’s even a 60-minute medication delivery service, fulfilled by Amazon’s drone service. Amazon’s Prime Air drone service will be landing in the UK next year, signalling a significant departure from conventional logistics.

Amazon’s drive “to help customers get and stay healthy” (as it claims in its Q3 earnings report) is certainly a tonic for its bottom line and increases online’s share of the overall US healthcare market. Its strategy appears to complement the pre-existing healthcare ecosystem, providing vital support in addressing service congestion.

Here in the UK, a similar revolution is underway. The ever-expanding UK pharmacy market is currently worth £12 billion a year. Though there are currently around 11,414 community pharmacies in the UK, the number has fallen by 535 since 2015/16 as online sales grow.

Doubtless, Amazon sees the UK as a potentially lucrative market. However, the UK pharmacy sector is one of the most highly regulated in the world. Whether online or in-store, strict rules surround the patient’s proof of identity and who can dispense medicines. These safeguards may present a barrier for new players in the market.

To establish consumer trust, Amazon’s pharmacy and online consulting businesses would need to register with the UK’s CQC (Care Quality Commission), which ensures healthcare providers such as online pharmacies meet national standards. Additionally, all websites must be authorised by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to sell medicines online.

It won’t be virgin territory for Amazon, as the UK online healthcare marketplace is already well-established. UK companies such as Pharmacy2U already deliver NHS prescription items to patients’ doors and offer online questionnaire-based doctors’ consultations. National High Street pharmacy chains such as Boots and Lloyds have also enthusiastically adopted online prescription renewals, as have many local pharmacies.

The NHS has an increasing number of online services, including the option for patients to see some of their health records, including information about prescriptions, vaccinations, and test results. The NHS app also enables access to many national and local pharmacies.

One of the biggest revolutions in the UK’s online healthcare market is likely to be in blood testing. Home delivery blood tests are now available for monitoring conditions ranging from diabetes and cholesterol to sexual health and allergies. General health checks and tests to monitor specific conditions are booming. For example, the online blood test provider London Medical Laboratory was listed this year as one of the J.P. Morgan UK Top 200 Women-Powered Businesses.

Customers simply order a test online, and it arrives at their home via Royal Mail first-class post. They then take a simple fingerprick blood sample and return it in the prepaid tracked postal bag. The sample is then processed in a dedicated, state-of-the-art laboratory in London. Once testing is completed, a secure link to doctor-validated personal results is sent.

As an example, London Medical Laboratory’s General Health Profile home test provides a comprehensive check-up of general health, including diabetes (HbA1c), liver and kidney function, bone health, iron levels, and a full cholesterol profile. This profile helps people proactively manage their health and identify and monitor many underlying or pre-existing conditions. It can be taken at home through the post or at one of the many drop-in clinics that offer these tests across London and nationwide in over 95 selected pharmacies and health stores.

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