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Retailers need to be ready to react to unpredictable outcomes.

Ten years ago who would have predicted that Bruce Jenner would be a woman? That Bill Cosby would be brought up on sexual assault charges? That Donald Trump would be a presidential candidate? The response to any one of these proposals would have been a smiling, but dismissive wave of the hand.

In today's world, anything is possible. With that, I have a few fun predictions for the future of the drug channel in 2020 and beyond. Each prediction comes in the form of a mock headline and news article. Don't laugh too hard--who knows?

'Data From Implants Finally Overtakes Annual Checkup'

The annual checkup used to be a tradition in every family. But now those days are over, because of the humble microchip.

In 2017, doctors were first able to embed microchips in critically ill patients, to aid in diagnostics and disease management, thanks to IBM's breakthrough technology.

When the technology first emerged in 2015, CNET reported; "Nanotubes are hollow cylinders whose walls are made of a single layer of carbon atoms linked into a hexagonal lattice pattern. It looks like an extremely tiny roll of chicken wire, but about 10,000 times smaller than a human hair."

Since those early days, microchip implants have expanded beyond the ICU to mainstream family practice. Now nearly every baby gets an implant along with the first vaccination.

And as of today, those implants have officially made the annual checkup visit obsolete, for the first time in history.

Physicians now routinely rely on information downloads from the chips to manage care, change prescriptions and diagnose new conditions.

The president of the American Medical Association said today in a press conference, "Most of our member physicians are pleased with the implant technology. It allows for continuous monitoring of patients, rather than a once-a-year, quick visit. Also, the information we get is very detailed without the expense of running old-fashioned tests. Of course, we have a few holdouts who are clearly disappointed that the annual checkup is no longer part of routine care."

'Drones Fight Back Against Drug Delivery Piracy Threat'

Renewing and ordering prescriptions has been automatic, or nearly so, for a decade now thanks to carbon-based microchip implants. But drone delivery of those drugs has had a harder time catching up. In 2018, Amazon's drone service took the market by storm after regulators cleared the skies for its delivery fleet.

However, piracy took its toll on the fledging business. Thieves were shooting down the drones, taking the drug cargo and selling it on the black market. This slowed the service to a halt.

But good news: The drones are back. According to a press release from the Department of Justice today, commercial drones are cleared to retaliate when under attack. Citing precedent self-defense legislation, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing drones to shoot back at attackers, but only if the unmanned flyer has specific equipment to target properly.

For Amazon and others, the emphasis now will be on getting the drones armed with scopes and weapons that meet regulations. Legal weapons include, but are not limited to, ink bombs, long-distance laser rifles and chip-embedded guns, which allow for easy identification of the perpetrator.

It won't be long before we see these fearless flyers back in the skies.

'Amazon Now Largest O-T-C Drug Retailer in U.S.'

It's hard for those born after 2010 to believe that Amazon started as a clunky online retailer, hardly a threat to behemoths like CVS/pharmacy and Walgreens. But today, Amazon's sales of over-the-counter and prescription drugs surpassed those of the last and largest of the great drug chains.

Amazon's corner on drugs came about because of an advantage in software. Early on, the company created "Buy Now" buttons that lived in consumers' environments, outside of then-traditional digital tools such as smartphones.

Instead, the Buy Now buttons were designed to function near the moment of need: A consumer would push the Buy Now button, say fixed to the clothes washer, and Tide would be delivered in the next Amazon shipment.

This technology, which predated the ubiquitous Web, opened the door to auto-renewal of drug orders.

Amazon's Buy Now Button software is used in most human implants, so that the renewal, ordering and delivery of drugs are completely personalized and seamless. Who actually remembers going to the pharmacy?

Sure, these War of the Worlds scenarios are far-fetched. But even so, some of these emerging technologies and attitudes are certain to impact the chain drug business.

Liz Crawford is senior vice president of insights and strategy at Match Marketing Group.
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Title Annotation:My Turn
Author:Crawford, Liz
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Apr 18, 2016
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