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Red tape slows Amazon Japan's push for same-day drug delivery

Without a retail outlet, Amazon Japan has not been cleared to offer the delivery service.

TOKYO -- A regulatory hurdle to selling over-the-counter medicines is delaying the launch of same-day delivery of such drugs by Amazon Japan.

     The operator of Amazon.com's Japanese-language shopping website had planned to start the service last year, shipping the nonprescription drugs from a giant logistics center in Chiba Prefecture. But the online retail behemoth failed to obtain the prefectural government's permission to offer the delivery service out of the facility, which is closed to the public.

     "We cannot issue a permit because the site lacks a retail store accessible to consumers," a government official says.

     To skirt the issue, some retailers have opted to open drugstores within warehouses, where few if any consumers shop.

     The revised pharmaceutical affairs law, slated to take effect in June, allows online sales of over-the-counter drugs but prohibits "delivery services from facilities other than stores."

     Amazon boasts 50 million shoppers on a monthly basis. Online retailers participating in its virtual mall offer some 4,000 nonprescription drugs. But these products are delivered the next day at the earliest, since they are shipped via a parcel delivery company. In contrast, some supermarkets can sell medicines online and deliver them the same day because they carry inventory at stores.

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