In a letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission last week, US Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asked the regulatory agency to take a closer look at the proposal. $3.9 billion merger between Amazon and One Medical.
“I realize that the FTC is currently involved in numerous efforts to combat the accelerating economic concentration of the United States and the power of the tech giants.” Hawley wrote. “However, I urge you to prioritize a search review of this particular transaction.”
The acquisition “would give Amazon access to huge amounts of patient data,” the senator said.
While acknowledging that HIPAA and other privacy laws could “thwart the worst potential abuses,” Hawley also noted that “there are gaps in all legal frameworks.”
Some scenarios, “once dismissed as alarmist fictions, are now a very real possibility,” he said. “For example, if a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure by a One Medical doctor, will over-the-counter blood pressure medications be advertised to him every time he shops at Whole Foods Market?”
There are currently no FDA-approved over-the-counter medications for hypertension.
Hawley also said the deal would further bolster Amazon’s market dominance, which could reshape the power dynamics of the primary care space.
“It doesn’t matter if the primary care market as such is currently competitive: By having its hand in dozens of smaller markets, Amazon positions itself to eventually emerge as the dominant player in each, as cross-subsidies allow Amazon to offer services at a loss and data-driven network effects allow Amazon to market at a level that its competitors cannot match.”
He closed his letter by asking the FTC to find answers to several questions, including:
What firewalls, if any, does Amazon intend to put in place between patient data and retail customer data?
What products does Amazon intend to develop as a result of this acquisition?
“The privacy and security of Americans are now at stake in a whole new way,” Hawley wrote. “Amazon should not be allowed to buy their way into this industry.”