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November 20, 2020 10:15 AM, EST

Walgreens CFO Downplays Amazon’s Role in Pharmacy Industry

At the moment, Walgreens' CFO isn't too concerned about Amazon entering the pharmacy space.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

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Walgreens Boots Alliance’s finance chief downplayed the impact of Amazon.com Inc. just days after the internet giant’s push into online pharmacy sent shares of pharmacies and drug distributors reeling.

While Amazon is a formidable competitor, at this point it’s only a mail pharmacy, Walgreens Chief Financial Officer James Kehoe said Nov. 19 at the Wolfe Healthcare Conference.

Mail accounts for about 10% of prescriptions filled in the U.S., and people remain loyal to physical drugstores, Kehoe said. Walgreens boasts more than 9,000 stores where people can quickly pick up prescriptions or receive vaccines.

“When you want to get your COVID vaccination, are you going to call Amazon or are you going to call Walgreens or CVS?” Kehoe said. He questioned whether parents with a sick child would be satisfied to wait a few days to receive a prescription.

RELATED: Amazon Opens Online Pharmacy, Shaking Up Another Industry

Co-Chief Operating Officer Alex Gourlay pointed to Walgreens’ recently overhauled mobile application and a feature that allows people to shop online and pick up their items in stores and drive-throughs or at a curbside in as little as 30 minutes.

Analysts and investors have long speculated about a potential move further into pharmacy by Amazon, and its Nov. 17 launch, accompanied with discounts for Prime members, prompted dives in shares of Walgreens, CVS Health Corp. AmerisourceBergen Corp. and McKesson Corp., among other stocks.

Kehoe called the market’s response to the news “disappointing.” Walgreens shares have slid 15% since close Nov. 16 and 37% this year amid pandemic disruptions in health care and retail sales.

Walgreen Co. ranks No. 38 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.

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