Your Prescriptions Could Soon Fall Out of the Sky

Amazon is testing 1-hour drone deliveries for meds in College Station, Texas
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 18, 2023 5:28 PM CDT
Your Prescriptions Could Soon Fall Out of the Sky
A drone delivers prescription drugs in College Station, Texas. Amazon said Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, that customers in College Station can now get prescriptions delivered by a drone within an hour of placing their order.   (Amazon via AP)

Amazon will soon make prescription drugs fall from the sky when the e-commerce giant becomes the latest company to test drone deliveries for medications. The company said Wednesday that customers in College Station, Texas, can now get prescriptions delivered by a drone within an hour of placing their order, reports the AP. The drone, programed to fly from a delivery center with a secure pharmacy, will travel to the customer's address, descend to a height of about 13 feet, and drop a padded package. Amazon says customers will be able to choose from more than 500 medications; the list includes common treatments for conditions like the flu or pneumonia but not controlled substances.

The company's Prime Air division began testing drone deliveries of common household items last December in College Station and Lockeford, California. Amazon spokesperson Jessica Bardoulas said the company has made thousands of deliveries since launching the service. Amazon Prime already delivers some medications from the company's pharmacy inside of two days. But pharmacy Vice President John Love said that doesn't help someone with an acute illness like the flu. "What we're trying to do is figure out how can we bend the curve on speed," he said.

Amazon Pharmacy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vin Gupta says the US health care system generally struggles with diagnosing and treating patients quickly for acute illnesses. Narrowing the window between diagnosis and treating makes many treatments more effective, he said. Amazon is not the first company to explore prescription deliveries by drone. CVS Health worked with UPS to test deliveries in 2019 in North Carolina but that program ended, a CVS rep said. Intermountain Health started providing drone deliveries of prescriptions in 2021 in the Salt Lake City area and has been expanding the program, according to Daniel Duersch, supply chain director for the health care system.

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Companies seeking to use drones for commercial purposes have faced hurdles from regulators who want to make sure things are operating safely. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos had predicted a decade ago that drones would be making deliveries by 2018. Even now, Amazon is only using the technology in two markets. Amazon says its drones will fly as high as nearly 400 feet before slowly descending when they reach the customer's home. The drone will check to make sure the delivery zone is clear of pets, children, or any other obstructions before dropping the package on a delivery marker. The company said it hopes to expand the program to other markets, but it has no time frame for that.

(More Amazon stories.)

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