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Amazon.com, Inc. (AMZN) Aims to Eliminate Health Care Middlemen

Wayne Duggan

An effort by Amazon.com, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and others to disrupt the health care industry is beginning to take shape.

Two weeks ago, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK.A, BRK.B) and JP Morgan Chase & Co. ( JPM) announced they would create an independent health care company that will be "free from profit-making incentives" and instead aims at "improving employee satisfaction and reducing cost" of care through technology.

[See: 8 Catalysts That Are Moving Amazon Stock.]

On Tuesday, CNBC analyst Jim Cramer reported that sources close to the new company say one of its primary goals is to reduce drug prices by eliminating "middlemen" in the health care industry. According to Cramer, those middlemen include AmerisourceBergen Corp. ( ABC), Cardinal Health ( CAH), McKesson Corp. ( MCK) and Owens & Minor ( OMI).

One of those companies, AmerisourceBergen, is the target of a takeover by Walgreens Boots Alliance ( WBA), the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. The deal would give Walgreens, which already owns a 26 percent stake in AmerisourceBergen, more control over its drug supply chain in a health care industry that appears to be consolidating in preparation for a new era of online competition. In December, CVS Health Corp. ( CVS) announced a $69 billion buyout of health insurance giant Aetna ( AET).

The Walgreens buyout news sent shares of AmerisourceBergen soaring more than 9 percent on Tuesday.

"This is the principal [health care] expense," Cramer said. "I think Walgreens may not be as smart as they think they are in buying this because I think that these companies are going to be squeezed by that [Amazon] venture, and therefore squeezed by others that have to compete."

[ See: 7 of the Best Tech Stocks to Buy for 2018.]

Forrester Research analyst Kate McCarthy recently said Amazon's track record of disruption is already changing the way health care companies are approaching the future.

"Health organizations and leaders have felt like they're a sacred cow for a long time because they think it's an industry too difficult for outsiders, and that's just not the case anymore," McCarthy said in January, according to the L.A. Times. "If they're not prepared to radically innovate, they should expect to be replaced."



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