Report: Walmart in talks to acquire medication delivery startup PillPack

By Jonah Comstock
02:59 pm

Walmart is reportedly in talks to acquire PillPack, a New England-based virtual pharmacy with around $100 million in funding. According to CNBC, which broke the news, the retail giant is offering less than $1 billion for the startup. But the deal could still fall apart, CNBC's sources said.

Founded in 2013, PillPack offers a virtual pharmacy experience for people who can't or would rather not visit a brick and mortar pharmacy, either because they live in an underserved rural area, they have mobility challenges, or they're simply looking for a more convenient experience.

"If you put yourself into the shoes of someone taking seven or eight prescriptions every single month, they're having to go to the pharmacy three or four times a month," CEO TJ Parker told MobiHealthNews back in 2014. "Because of the way their refills are synced up, they can't get them all on the same day. There's typically a line, so if you don't want to hold anyone else up you're hesitant to ask the pharmacist any questions ... Then you get home with all these bottles, you have to put them in a pillbox or whatever mechanism you're using to manage your meds. So it becomes this arduous confusing complicated system for people who are taking meds. This takes all the complexity and makes it fairly simple."

Not only does PillPack deliver medications directly to patients through the mail, it also pre-packages them by dose to simplify the experience of taking the medications. Users pay a monthly fee for the service, and this fee can be covered by many insurance companies, including many Medicare plans.

Apparently the company was being courted by both Walmart and Amazon. Both companies are at the heart of a major vertical restructuring happening in healthcare around the pharmacy and payer spaces. While CVS advances plans to purchase Aetna, Walmart has expressed an interest in buying Humana and Cigna has agreed to acquire pharmacy benefit manager organization Express Scripts (which, to bring the story full circle, got into a contract scrap with PillPack two years ago).

Amazon, meanwhile, has long been eyeing the pharmacy space but recently announced a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to get into the healthcare space. While the details are sparse, there's a strong possibility, given Amazon's retail expertise, that pharmacy is part of the plan.

Neither Walmart nor PillPack has confirmed the news of the acquisition.


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