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Amazon Pharmacy Launches Drone Delivery Service

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   October 18, 2023

The retailer is using drones to delivery prescription medications to customer doorsteps in Texas within an hour, bypassing traffic and terrain.

Amazon Pharmacy is launching a drone delivery service, giving customers in College Station, Texas, an opportunity to receive medications within an hour at their doorstep.

The program is the latest foray into drone delivery for the healthcare industry, which sees the form factor as a potential service for medicine and supply deliveries in congested or rural areas or when time and distance are a factor. Several health systems, including Intermountain Health, Michigan Medicine, WakeMed Health and Hospitals, and Rady Children’s Hospital, have either tested or are using drones to ferry supplies from one site to another or to selected patients.

“Making access to healthcare faster and more convenient will lead to better health outcomes for our patients,” former Intermountain President and CEO Marc Harrison said in 2022 when the Utah health system launched its program.

Amazon, which operates its own drone delivery services, is one of only a handful to receive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to operate drones with advanced capabilities. The company has been using drones in Texas for package delivery since 2022.

“Our drones fly over traffic, eliminating the excess time a customer’s package might spend in transit on the road,” Calsee Hendrickson, director of product and program management at Prime Air, said in a blog on the Amazon site. “That’s the beauty of drone delivery, and medications were the first thing our customers said they also want delivered quickly via drone. Speed and convenience top the wish list for health purchases.”

Healthcare providers see the potential for drones to deliver urgent or time-sensitive drugs and other medical supplies to patients wherever they’re located, bypassing traffic and terrain that would slow down traditional delivery services. Aside from pharmacy deliveries, drones could also be used to send supplies and equipment to remote clinics and health centers, accident scenes, even pop-up healthcare sites dealing with disasters and mass treatment and vaccination services. And they could also be used to deliver organs to transplant centers.

The service is also attracting pharma partners. Pfizer joined forces with drone company Zipline during the pandemic to ferry vaccines and other supplies to remote locations, and executives say the service will figure into their long-term supply chain strategy.

[See also: USC Studies Potential for AI-Enabled Drones in Emergency Care.]

“We’re taught from the first days of medical school that there is a golden window that matters in clinical medicine,” Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy, said in the blog. “That’s the time between when a patient feels unwell and when they’re able to get treatment. We’re working hard at Amazon to dramatically narrow the golden window from diagnosis to treatment, and drone delivery marks a significant step forward. Whether it’s an infectious disease or respiratory illness, early intervention can be critical to improving patient outcomes.”

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation, Technology, and Pharma for HealthLeaders.


Healthcare organizations like Intermountain Health have launched drone delivery services over the past few years to ferry medicines and other supplies to remote clinics and patients.

The service reduces the risk of late or undelivered supplies due to traffic, weather, or other concerns, enabling patients to receive medication in a more timely manner.

Health system executives could use this platform for deliveries to clinics and patients, as well as accident sites and pop-up clinics for disaster and mass treatment or vaccination services.

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