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Amazon contemplating lawsuit against Surescripts

Surescripts is seeking to cut off PillPack's access to patient data, and the latter, an Amazon-owned company, isn't taking the matter lightly.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Last week, it was reported that Amazon is contemplating a lawsuit against electronic prescribing company Surescripts, which has taken action to prevent the former from accessing its patient information. A lawsuit could complicate matters for both businesses.

This comes about a year after Amazon snatched up PillPack in a $753 million acquisition. PillPack, a pharmacy delivery service, receives comprehensive data indirectly from Surescripts, and uses the information to access patient medication lists, inform patients about potential safety risks, pinpoint duplicate medications and assist with refills. Surescripts is owned by potential PillPack competitors CVS and Express Scripts.

According to a CNBC report, PillPack will soon be blocked from accessing that data from third party company ReMy Health. Amazon's pending lawsuit is designed to put the brakes on those efforts, with PIllPack allegedly sending a cease-and-desist letter to Surescripts.

Rather than contracting directly with Surescripts, Pillpack goes through ReMy for information on patient medication. ReMy collects raw data from Surescripts and sends a more polished version of it to clients through its application software. ReMy indicated last week that it would cease working with Pillpack, severing a relationship that began in 2017.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

If PillPack loses access to data from Surescripts it would effectively be cut off from patients' digital histories. This introduces a particularly vexing challenge, since many of its patients take multiple medications prescribed by various doctors. PillPack would probably have to call each patient by phone to get their medication lists, a time-consuming process that would rely on patients' memories rather than on hard and fast data.

There's another possible complication for Amazon. According to a Forbes contributor, if Amazon goes forward with the lawsuit, it may be hit by claims for openness on its own part -- adding stress to its practice of keeping a private lid on its own customer data.

Amazon told Forbes this was an unfounded concern, given the differences between customer data and personal health information.

THE LARGER TREND

Amazon reported $3.6 billion in profit for the first quarter of 2019, more than double the $1.6 billion earned during the same time period last year, releasing its quarterly report during the same week it began actively marketing PillPack to its customers.

Prescription deliveries are included in Amazon's Prime membership program.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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