New healthcare service will deliver prescriptions via drone

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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zipline magellan rx
Magellan Rx Management is leveraging Zipline drone technology.

A pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) is entering the drone prescription delivery space.

Magellan Rx Management, the full-service pharmacy benefits management division of Magellan Health Inc., and drone technology provider Zipline are partnering to provide on-demand delivery of prescription medications, including specialty medications that treat chronic, complex conditions, directly to patients’ homes via autonomous aircraft.

Magellan Rx will be the first PBM to deliver specialty and traditional medications through Zipline, which piloted a similar drone prescription delivery program with Walmart in fall 2020. Initially, this option will be available to Magellan Rx members in the North Carolina service area. Operations are expected to begin in 2022, pending approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and will operate from Zipline’s existing distribution center in Kannapolis, N.C., which is capable of serving customers within 7,800 square miles.

Through automated on-demand delivery, Magellan intends to provide healthcare organizations and individual customers the medications they need in as little as 15 minutes. Zipline’s proprietary technology enables quick on-demand delivery in under an hour and eliminates carbon emissions.

In addition to Walmart’s activity, CVS and UPS are offering delivery of Rx drugs via drone to the nation’s largest retirement community, located in Florida. CVS Pharmacy also completed the first revenue-generating drone delivery of a medical prescription from one of its stores directly to a consumer’s home in Cary, N.C., in November 2019.

Magellan’s decision to directly deliver prescriptions to consumers via drone also represents the growing threat PBMs represent to pharmacy retailers. For example, Mark Cuban, billionaire entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-star of the TV show “Shark Tank,’ is launching an online pharmacy with an initial inventory of more than 100 generic drugs. The launch of the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company comes just a few weeks after the company’s PBM operation was established.

CCPDC is partnering with digital healthcare company Truepill in an effort to provide customers a seamless, secure e-commerce experience. Patients will also receive prescription fulfillment and delivery through Truepill's nationwide pharmacy footprint.

“The team at Magellan Rx Management is thrilled to collaborate with Zipline and be the first PBM to deliver specialty and traditional medications via drone,” said Mostafa Kamal, CEO at Magellan Rx Management. “For us, it is about challenging the status quo, and leveraging cutting edge technology to reimagine the ways in which we can improve access, care, and quality for individuals with complex and rare conditions who are often challenged with additional hurdles on their healthcare journey. Reliable, on-demand deliveries with Zipline help us advance our existing consumer-centric approach where patients can get the critical medications they need delivered, on their time, when they need them, right to their own homes.”

“Instant logistics can transform health outcomes for those that need it most,” said Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO at Zipline. “With Magellan Rx Management, we’re working to reimagine the patient experience, bring care closer to home, and ultimately help patients treat and manage chronic and complex health conditions.”