Magellan Health and Zipline are teaming up to deliver prescription medications via drones.
Magellan Rx, the company’s pharmacy benefit management division, will deliver specialty medications for chronic conditions as well as traditional medications using Zipline’s autonomous aircrafts.
According to Zipline, its automated delivery protocols can bring patients their medications in as few as 15 minutes.
“For us, it is about challenging the status quo and leveraging cutting edge technology to reimagine the ways in which we can improve access, care and quality for individuals with complex and rare conditions who are often challenged with additional hurdles on their healthcare journey,” said Mostafa Kamal, CEO of Magellan Rx Management, in a statement included in the company's press release. “Reliable, on-demand deliveries with Zipline help us advance our existing consumer-centric approach where patients can get the critical medications they need delivered, on their time, when they need them, right to their own homes.”
Deliveries are expected to begin this year—pending federal approval—starting in North Carolina.
Centene recently acquired Magellan Health for a whopping $2.2 billion, creating one of the largest behavioral health platforms in the U.S. with 41 million unique members.
The deal closed at the beginning of January, one year after it was first announced.
Magellan now operates independently under Centene’s Health Care Enterprises arm.
Zipline began drone deliveries in 2016, first delivering blood in Rwanda before expanding to deliver other medical supplies to Ghana.
The Federal Aviation Administration approved the use of Zipline’s drones in North Carolina in 2020 to deliver personal protective equipment in partnership with Novant Health.
The startup has since launched multiple partnerships, including a collaboration with Pfizer and BioNTech to deliver their mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in Ghana, as well as an initiative with Walmart to roll out the U.S.’s first commercial drone delivery service in Arkansas.
Since its creation in 2014, the company has become the world’s largest automated on-demand delivery service.
“Instant logistics can transform health outcomes for those that need it most,” said Keller Rinaudo, founder and CEO of Zipline. “With Magellan Rx Management, we’re working to reimagine the patient experience, bring care closer to home, and ultimately help patients treat and manage chronic and complex health conditions.”
Few healthcare organizations currently use drones to deliver medications and other supplies, but escalating demands for remote care options and medication delivery during the pandemic led more players to ink partnerships.
CVS and UPS first announced they would be testing certain applications for drone delivery in 2019 before rolling out prescription deliveries via drone to retirement communities in Florida in August 2020.
Hospitals like Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and Hutchinson Regional Medical Center also piloted drone delivery programs.
The aircrafts have been used to deliver prescriptions, COVID-19 tests, over-the-counter medications and even lab samples.