Amazon’s announcement of a prescription subscription service that charges a flat monthly fee instead of offering discounts on each prescription fill represents the retail giant’s latest foray into the health care space.
Amazon’s latest foray into the health care realm is the announcement of RxPass, a subscription service that will allow members to receive as many prescriptions as they need from a prespecified list of generic medications for $5 a month.
According to Amazon’s announcement, the service is only available to members of Amazon Prime, which costs $139 per year. By adding on the $5 monthly RxPass fee, subscribers will be able to receive all their eligible medications delivered to their door for free. Its flat-fee model is in contrast to pharmacy “savings club” programs, which generally offer discounts per fill of certain generics for a yearly membership fee. Amazon Pharmacy already offers a Prime prescription savings benefit, which the company said would remain in place for medications not covered under RxPass.
Direct-to-consumer pharmacies such as Cost Plus Drug Company have made waves in the market recently. A study published last year found that Medicare could have saved $3.6 billion if it paid the same prices as Cost Plus Drug Company, founded by entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
Amazon RxPass’ list of covered medications includes generics ranging from amoxicillin for infections to several statins for high cholesterol. It also features 7 mental health medications, including the antidepressants bupropion, escitalopram, and sertraline.
The list of covered drugs appeared shorter than that offered by Cost Plus Drug Company, but Amazon’s announcement of RxPass emphasized the potential savings and convenience for members taking multiple medications that would sum up to more than $5 a month through other pharmacies.
The statement, written by Vin Gupta, MD, chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy, cited research by the Kaiser Family Foundation that found almost half of American adults surveyed take 2 or more prescription medications, and 26% report difficulty affording the cost of their prescription medicine.
Health care has been an area of interest for Amazon in recent years, although its ventures have not always taken off. It shuttered its employer-focused telehealth business Amazon Care last year, then launched Amazon Clinic, a virtual health care platform. Amazon in 2022 also acquired concierge primary care company One Medical for $3.9 billion, which raised concerns regarding anticompetitive behavior.
RxPass will not be available to members with government-funded insurance, such as Medicare or Medicaid, nor to those living in California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, or Washington, although Amazon Pharmacy will still operate in those states. The discounts from RxPass do not go through prescription insurance, and members cannot use a health savings account or flexible spending account to pay their RxPass subscription fee.