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Amazon just bought a startup that helps you pop your pills

Founded in 2013, PillPack uses a hybrid of automation and good old-fashioned human pharmacists to disrupt the drugstore business. And as of today, it belongs to the e-commerce giant.

The pill problem: Managing prescription medications is a hassle for patients and can be mind-numbing for pharmacists, who spend a lot of time counting pills—time that could be better spent managing people’s health. The consequences of not taking pills properly (and Americans are really bad at taking their pills properly) can be dire.

Pack ’em up: The idea behind PillPack is simple: using staff pharmacists, software, and a dash of computer vision, the company manages a patient’s prescriptions and pre-sorts the pills into little packs stamped with the date and time when they’re supposed to be taken. They’re then shipped to people’s homes—there’s even a cute little dispenser—all for about the cost of filling a prescription at a local drugstore.

Assimilated by Amazon:  When we profiled PillPack last year, the company was looking at $100 million in annual revenue from “tens of thousands” of customers, and it’s raised $118 million in venture backing. So Amazon probably paid a pretty penny for its shiny new apothecary (UPDATE: the Wall Street Journal says Amazon's paying $1 billion in cash). But it will have been worth it if the online retail behemoth can gobble up market share from huge US drugstore chains like CVS and Walgreens.

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