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Amazon launches $5 generic prescriptions for Prime members

Online retailer says edible generics for 80 conditions can be delivered to your door with RxPass subscription

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An Amazon logo appears on a delivery van in Boston.

An Amazon logo appears on a delivery van, Oct. 1, 2020, in Boston. Amazon is adding a prescription drug discount program to its growing health care business. The retail giant said Tuesday that it will launch RxPass, a subscription service for customers who have Prime memberships.

Steven Senne, Associated Press

Amazon is launching a new pharmacy service that will let its Prime subscribers receive generic medicines for more than 80 medical conditions for $5 a month.

That’s $5 total or $60 a year, according to Amazon.

In the announcement, the company said that “with RxPass, Prime members can get as many eligible medications as they need for one flat, low fee of $5 and have them conveniently delivered to their door.”

The company estimates that at least 150 million Americans take one or more of the drugs that are available through the monthly subscription. The list includes common generic prescription drugs for allergies, inflammation, high blood pressure, anxiety and acid reflux, among others.

“RxPass is our latest effort to help patients save time, save money and stay healthy,” Dr. Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy, wrote, noting the service is available in most U.S. states.

CNN reported that the delivery launches “immediately in most states except California, Texas, Minnesota and others with specific prescription delivery requirements. Customers who are enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid or any other government health care program will not be able to sign up for the benefit.”

Per CNN, “The program is likely to save customers money on low-cost generic drugs but won’t impact prices for more expensive brand-name drugs, which drive the bulk of U.S. prescription drug spending, say health care analysts and economists. They also expect Amazon to lose money on the service but see other benefits.”

“Amazon sells a range of generic drugs through its pharmacy service. Some already cost as little as $1 for a 30-day supply, so the benefit of this new program will vary by customer,” according to CBS News.

Amazon Prime — which includes other perks, including free delivery of products — costs $139 a year. Adding the prescription benefit would raise the annual cost to $199 a year.

“Although generic drugs represented around 86% of all U.S. prescriptions in 2022 by volume, they made up just 20% of prescription drug spending, Evercore analyst Elizabeth Anderson said in note to clients Tuesday,” the CNN article said.

“The set of generics in Amazon’s new program represent 32% of generic drugs in 2021, and is likely a loss leader for Amazon,” Anderson said, adding that it was an “incremental pharmacy experiment” for the company.

CNBC said that “Amazon has pushed deeper into health care in recent years. The company launched its own online pharmacy in 2020, a service that was born out of its acquisition of PillPack in 2018. Amazon introduced, then shuttered, a telehealth service called Amazon Care, and announced in July it would acquire boutique primary care provider One Medical.”

The company’s Prime subscription saving program offers a discount on brand-name prescriptions.

Amazon Pharmacy has a list of eligibility requirements and the prescriptions available through the program. In addition, Gupta said that pharmacists and support staff are available around-the-clock to discuss medication and coordinate with the patient’s doctors.

The program works as an add-on to a Prime membership subscription, so it operates entirely outside of health insurance. And if medical needs change, Gupta wrote, it’s easy to cancel the service.

The medications will be delivered monthly or quarterly. For drugs not covered in the program, the frequently asked question section says the pharmacy accepts most insurance plans.

According to CNBC, “The e-retailer faces competition in pharmacy from the likes of CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Amazon hasn’t said how its online pharmacy offering has fared since its launch. An August report from Morgan Stanley found Amazon Pharmacy didn’t rank as a top perk for Prime members, based on a survey of users, according to Business Insider.”