Reports that CVS is in talks to buy health insurer Aetna — unconfirmed so far — indicate that the pharmacy chain has Amazon.com on its mind. Amazon clearly wants to sell prescription drugs: The online giant has obtained approval for wholesale pharmacy licenses in at least 12 states.
As CNBC points out, owning Aetna would put CVS in a stronger position to negotiate cheaper drug prices and could also lead to cheaper copayments for the insured. Then, too, that vast network of stores could be harnessed to provide a cost-effective distribution center and an in-store clinic network.
CVS has been reinventing itself as a health-care business for years through its in-store clinics, so this deal would accelerate a transformation that is already in motion anyway. Furthermore, CVS and Aetna already forged an agreement to work together in 2010. So by buying Aetna, CVS could be making Amazon’s march into the prescription drug business anything but a cakewalk.
By Edmund Mander