Amazon’s PillPack Threatens Surescripts Lawsuit

July 24, 2019
Tracey Walker
Tracey Walker

The potential lawsuit is over the access to patient medication data.

Amazon’s online pharmacy, PillPack, has threatened to sue e-prescribing company Surescripts if it stops it from accessing patient medication data.

PillPack offers free delivery of personalized pre-packaged daily doses of medication. They also promise to interface with insurance companies, analyze patient medications for potential interactions, side effects, or duplications, and track refills.

PillPack gets broader prescribing data through a service agreement with ReMy Health, which compiles raw prescribing data, cleans it up and offers it to clients through an application programming interface, according to Michael Abrams, managing partner of Numerof & Associates, a healthcare consulting firm. ReMy Health has recently notified PillPack that it plans to terminate the service arrangement that makes the broader prescribing data available.

“Surescripts is owned by some of PillPack’s potential competitors, including CVS and Express Scripts,” says Abrams. “Because Surescripts manages about 80% of all U.S. prescriptions, much of the data sold by ReMy Health comes from Surescripts.”

Related: Is Amazon’s PillPack Acquisition Good News For Managed Care? Experts React

To deliver on this promise of personalization, PillPack relies on a comprehensive data set of prescribing activity that enables them to see all the drugs an individual is taking, regardless of the fulfillment mechanism, according to Abrams.

“PillPack’s value proposition to healthcare executives is that their service improves medication adherence, which can positively impact outcomes, readmissions, and other measures that are of increasing importance to executives as they opt into payment models that incentivize results,” he says.

A disruption?

“PillPack would find it difficult if not impossible to provide the same level of personalized service without the benefit of a broader database,” Abrams says. “This could be disruptive for patients relying on the company for their medications, with negative implications for treatment outcomes.”

Because there is a case to be made regarding the safety of PillPack’s existing patient base, Abrams expects that ReMy Health’s action to cut off the company from its database is not likely to withstand legal review.

“That said, prudent healthcare executives should have contingency plans in place to mitigate any disruption for patients should an interruption nonetheless occur,” he says.

Update 11:30 7/24:

Paul Uhrig, chief administrative officer, Surescripts says that the company holds such data in high security.

"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.

"Medication history information is Protected Health Information and can reveal a lot about an individual’s health status, including the most sensitive of healthcare conditions. It is intended to be used by physicians in caring for patients. Surescripts does not provide this data to retail pharmacies, regardless of whether they are traditional or web-based. While we’re not at liberty to speak to the specifics of any one contract, we can say that we do not contract with any entity to serve as a source of medication history to pharmacies."