AUGUSTA — Amazon is looking to jump into the pharmaceutical wholesale business in Maine and at least a dozen other states in a move that is making waves in pharmacy and medical industries.

The online retailer has submitted three applications to the Maine Board of Pharmacy to be licensed as a “pharmaceutical wholesaler” in the state. While the Maine licenses are still pending, Amazon already has received wholesale pharmacy licenses in at least 12 states, including neighboring New Hampshire.

It is unclear what, exactly, plans to do with the pharmaceutical wholesaler licenses in Maine, if they are granted. The Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, which houses the Maine Board of Pharmacy, did not reply to a request for a copy of the applications on Friday. Some national observers suggested that Amazon’s more immediate interest, however, may be more in the medical devices field than in selling prescription drugs to consumers.

An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment Friday on “rumors and speculation,” but in a statement pointed out that “wholesale licenses are required for Amazon Business to sell professional-use only medical devices in certain states.” Amazon Business already offers “professional-only” products – such as medical products and dental tools – to licensed professionals in some states. Maine is not among the more than 40 states where Amazon Business is now licensed to sell professional-only products.

Additionally, a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which first reported on Amazon’s potential entrance into the wholesale pharmacy industry, said the company expressed an interest in distributing medical devices on some state applications, and in distributing pharmaceuticals, supplies and devices on others.

Although relatively small population-wise, Maine’s status as the oldest state in the nation and its rural character could make it attractive to Amazon, should it decide to enter the prescription drug market.

Meanwhile, news of the online retail giant’s activity in the 13 states instantly reverberated across the pharmaceutical and health care industries.

The stock values of several major pharmacy and prescription drug distributors – including Walgreens and Express Scripts – fell for a second day Friday following the headlines about Amazon gobbling up wholesale pharmacy licenses. Some analysts also speculated that Amazon’s interest in the pharmaceutical industry could have been a factor in Thursday’s news that the parent company of the CVS pharmacy chain offered $66 billion to buy insurance company Aetna Inc, which sells health insurance.

Amazon’s stock, meanwhile, soared more than 13 percent to close above $1,100 a share for the first time on Friday. Amazon’s third-quarter sales, reported this week, were up 34 percent in part from a new “Prime Day” promotion and the company’s acquisition in August of the Whole Foods supermarket chain.

Amazon has been steadily expanding its business-to-business online sales service since launching Amazon Business two years ago. And some speculated that Amazon’s forays into the pharmaceutical industry could be part of that strategy.

According to The Associated Press, Jefferies and Co. analyst Brian Tanquilut wrote that Amazon appears to have taken out licenses to sell medical equipment, not drugs. He said the company may stick to medical devices and over-the-counter medicines for now, because in order to distribute prescription drugs Amazon would need to establish relationships with pharmacy benefits managers and health insurers.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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