CVS/pharmacy made headlines when it announced the launch of one- to two-day pharmacy and front store-delivery nationwide — calling itself the first national retailer to do so — while also expanding same-day delivery to five new markets.

CVS first introduced its plans for next-day and same-day delivery in November of last year, around the same time online behemoth Amazon hinted at a possible expansion into the prescription drug realm, igniting concern throughout the pharmacy industry. A month later, CVS rolled out same-day delivery on prescriptions and some over-the-counter products in New York. As of June 19, same-day delivery is now also available in Boston, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., while one- to two-day shipping is available nationwide.

"The national launch of our prescription delivery service, including the expansion of same-day delivery in five new markets, is delivering on our promise to make staying healthy simpler for every patient, regardless of where they live," said CVS president Kevin Hourican in a June 19 media release. "Through a fully customized digital experience, shoppers are now able to enjoy the convenience of CVS/pharmacy right at their doorstep. The rollout of delivery from nearly all of our 9,800 retail pharmacy locations nationwide represents another step forward for us in delivering innovative omnichannel solutions that help people on their path to better health."

Currently, customers can only request prescription delivery by logging on to the CVS/pharmacy mobile application or by calling their local store when a prescription is ready for pick-up. For a $4.99 delivery fee, orders placed by 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday are delivered in two days; orders placed by 4 p.m. on Friday or 3 p.m. on Saturday are delivered by Monday or Tuesday, respectively. Orders placed after 3 p.m. on Saturday or anytime on Sunday are delivered on Wednesday.

In addition, customers in the aforementioned metro markets can opt in for same-day prescription delivery within one mile of a store for an $8.99 fee. Orders placed by 4 p.m. are delivered by 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, while those placed by 11 a.m. on Saturday or Sunday are delivered by 4 p.m.

Members of CVS Health's prescription management subsidiary CVS Caremark holding the Maintenance Choice All Access drug plan get extra benefits:

  • on-demand delivery nationwide for most prescription drug orders within 10 miles of a store, delivered within four hours using the same timetable as same-day delivery for a $7 fee.
  • no charge for one- to two-day delivery.

Along with eligible prescriptions, CVS is also delivering over-the-counter health and household items including cold and flu medicines, vitamins, baby products and feminine products — though the add-ons are not available from CVS pharmacies located within Target stores. Orders are wrapped in specially-designed packaging to preserve privacy and prevent tampering, and are delivered via the U.S. Postal Service requiring no signature.

A cvs.com home page carousel ad touted the new service at launch. Various cvs.com web pages offer details on the programs.

In stores, window and security pedestal clings at store entrances and wobblers positioned at pharmacy, checkout and throughout OTC aisles promote the new service, while multiple Twitter and Facebook updates from the retailer round out support.

Prescriptions generate about 70% of sales for CVS. The drugstore chain launched the new last-mile service in hopes of boosting those sales even further to combat a 1% dip in front-end same-store sales in its latest quarter (ended June 30), which had a net loss of $2.56 billion compared to a profit of $1.10 billion a year ago. Despite the loss, CVS saw same-store prescription volume surge 9.5% in the retail/long-term care segment and 5.9% in its pharmacy services segment.

Meanwhile, Amazon already offers OTC medication, including an exclusive line dubbed Basic Care, and is making further inroads as a force in the pharmacy industry with its ongoing acquisition of PillPack, one of multiple digital pharmacy startups that have set up delivery services as an alternative to picking up prescriptions at a pharmacy. According to a study from Deutsche Bank, 85% of insured Prime members would be comfortable buying drugs directly from Amazon.