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Amazon offers generic drugs for $5 monthly fee with Prime, expanding healthcare arm – GeekWire

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RxPass smartphone interface. (Amazon Photo)

Amazon is offering a new healthcare service, RxPass, that enables Amazon Prime members to access multiple generic medications for a flat monthly fee of $5.

The fee is in addition to the $139 yearly or $14.99 monthly cost of Amazon Prime, the membership plan that provides expedited delivery of goods and other perks at the online retail giant. Delivery of medications under RxPass, part of Amazon Pharmacy, is free of charge.

The new service, available in 42 U.S. states, provides access to drugs for more than 80 common conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and acid reflux.

“We’re excited about the potential impact that this will have for those people on multiple medications. That’s who we think will benefit most from this service,” said Vin Gupta, chief medical officer at Amazon Pharmacy, in an interview with GeekWire.

RxPass is the latest healthcare initiative from Amazon, which announced plans to acquire primary care service One Medical for $3.9 billion in July, and in November introduced Amazon Clinic, a message-based health service that treats a variety of conditions, including COVID-19.

Amazon also shut down Amazon Care, a primary care service, last year.

RxPass provides a way for Prime members to save on drugs in addition to an existing benefit that provides discounts at more than 60,000 pharmacies, including Amazon Pharmacy. Under that benefit, customers can save up to 80% over standard industry pricing for generic drugs, according to Amazon.

RxPass offers “additional simplicity, affordability and convenience,” said Gupta. “Month over month, year over year, you can set it and forget it.”

Amazon launched its Amazon Pharmacy service in November 2020, following its $753 million acquisition of prescription-by-mail company PillPack in 2018.

As it builds up new healthcare capabilities, the potential grows for Amazon to combine services or bundle them into Prime, outside observers have noted.

Vin Gupta, Amazon Pharmacy chief medical officer. (Amazon Photo)

About 150 million Americans take at least one of the available medications available with RxPass, said Gupta, and the service offers a way for the uninsured or underinsured to access them inexpensively.

Another company offering low-cost prescriptions, GoodRx, provides discount coupons and online information about drug prices at multiple pharmacies. Its revenue model involves payments from pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen who operate between manufacturers and retailers.

Other companies offering drug pricing transparency and discounts include PharmacyChecker, oneRx, SingleCare, and Seattle area startup Prescryptive Health. Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs is another player.

Amazon’s flat $5 fee for a broad range of medications is “unique,” said Gupta. “To our knowledge we haven’t seen an offering structured in a similar way,” he said.

RxPass should make it easier and more affordable for people neglecting taking their medicine to access it, said Gupta, who is also a practicing pulmonologist, an affiliate faculty member at the University of Washington, and a medical analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. RxPass will “help promote better adherence and better health outcomes,” said Gupta, who joined Amazon in 2020.

RxPass is not available to people on Medicare, Medicaid or other government health programs and is available in most U.S. states, according to an Amazon blog post introducing RxPass Tuesday.



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