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Amazon Launches Online Pharmacy, Potentially Shaking Up the Industry

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  • Amazon launched its own online pharmacy Tuesday, a service that allows most customers in the United States to order prescription medicine to their homes. 
  • Amazon Prime members will receive free, unlimited shipping on medication. They’ll also receive up to 80% off generic drugs and up to 40% off brand-name drugs, even if they don’t have insurance. 
  • The announcement and launch of Amazon Pharmacy caused shares of Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS to fall Tuesday. 
  • Because more and more Americans are increasingly relying on home delivery during the pandemic, this could represent the beginning of a massive shift in the pharmaceutical industry.

Amazon Launches “Amazon Pharmacy”

Amazon simultaneously announced and launched Amazon Pharmacy on Tuesday, a new online service that could shake up the pharmaceutical industry as we know it.  

The pharmacy, an extension of the main site which has dominated the online retail space in recent years, will allow customers in the United States to order prescription meds directly to their homes. For Amazon Prime members, that includes free, unlimited delivery. 

According to Amazon, it also means massive savings on medications for Prime members — up to 80% for generic drugs and up to 40% for brand-name drugs. Those savings will come even if a customer lacks insurance. 

As far as insurance goes, Amazon says it’ll accept most forms, but the company has also gone a step further to inform customers about how to pay the lowest possible price for their medication.

“Before checking out, customers can compare their insurance co-pay, the price without insurance, or the available savings with the new Prime prescription savings benefit to choose their lowest price option,” it said in its press release.

Customers over the age of 18 in 45 states will have initial access to Amazon Pharmacy. Currently, the service is not live in Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Minnesota, but Amazon said it does expect to eventually serve those states.

With the service, doctors will be able to directly send prescriptions to Amazon Pharmacy. Since this is a new system, there’s likely going to be a heavy emphasis on stamping out fraud. Because of that, Amazon said it has tools in place to verify that a physician actually ordered a prescription.

Alongside that, while Amazon said it will deliver a mix of medication — everything from birth control to insulin to metformin — it also said it would not deliver Schedule II controlled medications. That includes opioids, which have fueled a deadly epidemic in the U.S. and have been linked to more than 470,000 deaths since 2000.

Shaking Up the Pharmaceutical Game

In addition to having doctors directly send prescriptions to Amazon, patients will also be able to request transfers from their existing retailer, whether that be CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc. That competition also resulted in stocks for those companies falling Tuesday morning. 

Amazon is poised to potentially reshape the pharmaceutical market because customers will now be able to fulfill prescriptions while in the midst of online grocery shopping or even late-night binge-shopping. That ease-of-access might mean people won’t feel the need to make a trip to traditional grocery stores like Walmart or Target.

The timing of this announcement is also extremely significant. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans have been increasingly relying on getting their medication through the mail. 

“We think this new benefit will add tremendous value to our members,” Jamil Ghani, vice president of Prime, said. “It’s relevant as folks try to do more from the comfort and safety of their homes.”

Still, Amazon is by no means the first company to offer home deliveries for medication. For example, both CVS and Walmart provide such services. 

Amazon’s entry into a market doesn’t guarantee its dominance.”  reporters for Bloomberg noted. 

“Amazon could find it difficult to quickly pry away customers from pharmacy chains. For many consumers, asking doctors to steer recurring prescriptions elsewhere is cumbersome.”

That’s because, in some cases, a switch might require an in-person office visit — a visit most people might not want to make right now unless they absolutely have to. On top of that, other customers might simply prefer to pick up their medicine in-person, especially if they need it filled right away. 

Will Amazon Pharmacy Share User Data?

Anyone who’s used Amazon knows that it employs personalized ads and shows customers items they might be interested in based on their search history.

According to TJ Parker, Amazon’s vice president of pharmacy, the pharmacy side will abstain from sharing pharmacy data with advertisers or marketers without permission. Instead, he said it will stay in full compliance with federal HIPAA patient privacy rules. 

“The information and experience you have inside the pharmacy is separate and distinct from the experience that you have on Amazon.com,” Parker said. 

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Axios) (Business Insider)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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