Amazon launches prescription drug subscription service
Amazon is adding a prescription drug discount program to its growing healthcare business.
The retail giant announced on Tuesday that it will launch RxPass, a subscription service for customers with Prime membership. According to Amazon, people pay $5 a month to fill out as many prescriptions as needed from a list of about 50 generic drugs, which are generally cheaper versions of brand-name drugs.
The company said the flat fee could cover a list of drugs including the antibiotic amoxicillin and the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen. Sildenafil also made the list. It is used under the brand name Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction and also treats a form of high blood pressure.
According to Amazon, Prime members who participate in the program can receive discounts of up to 80% on generic drugs and 40% on branded drugs at more than 60,000 pharmacies across the United States. Most health insurance programs are accepted, the company noted.
“Any customer who pays more than $10 a month for their eligible medications will see their prescription costs drop by 50% or more, and save time by skipping the trip to the pharmacy,” said John Love, Vice President of Amazon Pharmacy, in a statement on the new program.
Prime members can sign up for RxPass by Prime members on Amazon.com or in the Amazon mobile app.
Amazon sells a range of generic drugs through its pharmacy service. Some are already as low as $1 for a 30-day supply, so the benefit of this new program will vary from customer to customer.
The program does not use insurance, and individuals with federally funded Medicaid or Medicare insurance are not eligible. It will be available in 42 states and Washington, DC at launch.
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Any program that brings affordable generic drugs to more patients “is a good thing,” said Karen Van Nuys, an economist who studies drug pricing at the University of Southern California. But she added that she’s not sure how much of an impact RxPass will have. She noted that the program is limited to Amazon Prime customers. Other options like the Mark Cuban CostPlus Drug Co. sell more generic drugs, many for less than $5.
“I just don’t know that it expands access to a new group of patients,” Van Nuys said.
Still, the move could help the company take more space in the healthcare market, although it hasn’t always been successful. Last year, the company shut down its hybrid virtual home care service called Amazon Care after employers failed to take advantage of it. And Haven, a company Amazon founded in partnership with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to reduce health care costs, dissolved a year earlier.
Amazon has said its online drugstore Amazon Pharmacy is a key part of its healthcare plan, along with primary care organization One Medical, which the online giant plans to acquire for $3.9 billion. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the proposed acquisition.
In November, the company also announced it would offer “Amazon Clinic,” a messaging service that connects patients with doctors for about two dozen common conditions like allergies and hair loss.