Legal, Pharma

Amazon may file suit against Surescripts for access to patient data

CNBC cited unnamed sources who state that PillPack will be blocked from accessing data about a patient’s list of medications and prescription history, which it uses to accurately and safely send out medications to customers.

Amazon’s PillPack mail-order pharmacy is thinking about a legal challenge to Surescripts over what it considers to be information blocking limiting the company’s access to data necessary to serve its customers.

CNBC cited unnamed sources who state that PillPack will be blocked from accessing data about a patient’s list of medications and prescription history, which it uses to accurately and safely send out medications to customers.

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According to CNBC, Amazon has already sent a cease-and-desist to Surescripts and could consider further legal action if the issue is not resolved.

Amazon doesn’t directly contract with Surescripts and instead works through a third-party data vendor called ReMy Health, which collects and shares Surescripts medication data in a more usable form.

Without linked prescription data, Amazon would be forced to manually contact patients to collect the information, a laborious and error-prone process that directly contrasts with its promise of a simpler and more efficient drug purchasing.

For its part, Surescripts said that medication history is sensitive information “intended to be used by physicians in caring for patients and the company does not contract with any company to serve as a repository of medication history to pharmacies.

“Medication history information is extremely sensitive in nature. Surescripts takes our role as a trusted national health information network very seriously. Because maintaining a trusted network is core to our purpose, patient safety, privacy and security are at the top of our agenda,” the company said in a statement.

Amazon, which purchased PillPack last year for around $750 million as part of its larger ambitions in the healthcare space. The company, which intends to disrupt the existing way prescription medication is sold and distributed has continued to butt heads with major market players as it tries to shoulder its way into the industry.

“Each time Amazon moves into a new industry and redefines consumer expectations of cost and value, it poses a threat to legacy businesses in the space. It’s not surprising that Amazon is now experiencing pushback on its pharmacy ambitions,” said healthcare consultant Rita Numerof.

Surescripts is a major player in the medication data and e-prescription space and is owned in part by industry incumbents including CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions.

Surescripts has long been accused of anticompetitive practices and has been involved in a recent battle with the FTC over allegations that it has illegally monopolized the e-prescription market.

“Surescripts’ illegal contracts denied customers and, ultimately, patients, the benefits of competition – including lower prices, increased output, thriving innovation, higher quality, and more customer choice,” FTC Bureau of Competition Director Bruce Hoffman said in a statement when agency’s complaint filed a legal complaint against the company.

The FTC argued that through anticompetitive exclusivity agreements, threats, and other exclusionary tactics, Surescripts monopolized control of the market for clinicians to send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies, as well as the ability for providers to determine eligibility for prescriptions through their insurance and benefits coverage.

Surescripts has a roughly 95 percent market share in those markets even as the eligibility and routing transactions have ballooned, according to the FTC.

Earlier this month, Surescripts filed a motion to dismiss the FTC complaint citing “significant factual errors” in the agency’s argument.

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