CVS Health Expands Delivery, as Pharmacies Try to Keep Amazon at Bay

CVS Health said Tuesday that it has expanded its prescription-drug delivery service nationwide. Customers of the Rhode Island-based retail pharmacy giant, which operates about 9,800 stores in the U.S., will be able to get their medications, as well as over-the-counter items, delivered to their mailboxes in one to two days, said CVS Pharmacy, the retail division of CVS Health (NYSE: CVS).

The expansion of CVS Pharmacy’s delivery service comes as it and other pharmacies that have invested huge amounts of capital over the years to build a cross-country brick-and-mortar infrastructure, such as Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA), keep a wary eye on the words and actions of Seattle e-commerce giant Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).

Amazon does not currently ship prescription medications to customers. Still, there has been no shortage of speculation that the company might soon move into prescription drug sales. In April, Amazon revealed that more than 100 million people subscribe to its Prime service, which offers two-day shipping on most of the items sold through its website.

CVS Pharmacy said Tuesday that its same-day drug delivery service, which the company introduced in New York late last year, has expanded to five more metro areas: Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Customers pay a flat, $8.99 delivery fee for same-day orders.

In addition, CVS Pharmacy said consumers anywhere in the U.S. can now place next-day orders. (Not all orders actually arrive the next day, but the company said the number of orders that take two or more days to arrive is less than 20 percent.) The delivery fee for next-day orders is $4.99, CVS Pharmacy said.

Customers can place same-day or next-day orders in several ways: on the CVS website, using the CVS Pharmacy mobile app, or by calling the store where the customers usually pick up prescriptions.

The over-the-counter products CVS will ship to customers include medications for cold, flu, allergies, and digestive health, the company said.

CVS will mail items to consumers through the U.S. Postal Service, which can leave them at people’s residences in the event that nobody is home, CNBC reported.

Walgreens, meanwhile, charges customers $12.95 for two-day shipping of packages containing prescription drugs, or $19.95 for overnight delivery. The company does also offer free shipping, but with that option, orders take five to 10 business days to arrive, according to the Walgreens website.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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