Pharmacy Wars, How Technology Will Disrupt Retail Pharmacies

Just like how traditional retail was upended by Amazon, the cumbersome method of processing, purchasing and picking up medication from a pharmacy will be disrupted because it has to be disrupted. Today’s consumer expects speed and ease when it comes to making purchases and when there’s an easier way, it becomes the way. Jeff Bezos has a relentless focus on the customer and had gone to great lengths to address every little pain point a customer may bristle at. A New York City startup paid close attention to what worked for Amazon and is now doing the same in the pharmacy industry.

Imagine if you could order a prescription via text and have it delivered within two hours. You wouldn’t have to contact the pharmacy to ensure the prescription was properly filled, schedule a time to pick it up, wait in line once you got there, and verify identification and insurance. A startup aptly named ‘Capsule’ realized that the system was broken and sought to take the pain out of dealing with pharmacies. If they can solve the problem or at least make a dent in it, they have a massive $425 billion addressable market opportunity ahead of them.

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Capsule was founded just a few years ago in 2016 and has raised $70 million to date from leading investors including Thrive Capital, Glad Brook Capital, and The Virgin Group. Eric Kinariwala is the founder and CEO. He previously invested in global healthcare, technology and retail companies as part of the investment teams at Bain Capital and Perry Capital. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Eric didn’t start out having any expertise in the pharmacy industry, so he partnered up with Sonia Patel, now the company’s Chief Pharmacist. Sonia has more than a decade in the pharmacy industry, is a licensed pharmacist in five states and grew up in a family of pharmacists. She graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Texas, Austin.

Together they have made great progress, starting in New York City, any patient can now order through Capsule. The infrastructure is set up so that any doctor can work with Capsule’s system and e-prescribe through their communication channel of choice. The delivery system is also set up so that patients located anywhere in the city can receive their prescriptions whether in an office, residence or elsewhere, within two hours of ordering. When 34 to 52% of prescriptions are never even picked up, just by solving the delivery aspect will make a big difference in ensuring patient compliance.

While Capsule still has a long way to go towards becoming a material player in the massive pharmacy space, it is taking a logical approach by starting in a defined area with a large population. If things prove out well in New York City, the company will quickly expand to other major metropolitan areas around the globe, that is if Amazon doesn’t beat them to it.