Health & Medical

Amazon rolls out generic drug subscription service

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Amazon is expanding its push into healthcare with the introduction of a generic drug subscription service aimed at consumers with common conditions like high blood pressure, acid reflux or anxiety.

The medication delivery service, RxPass, costs $5 per month for Amazon Prime members. Amazon Prime costs either $14.99 per month or $139 annually. 

The service, announced Tuesday, starts immediately in most states except California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington because of state-specific requirements. Dr. Vin Gupta, chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy, said there are approximately 50 generic medications treating 80 health conditions available on the subscription list. 

RxPass will target people with chronic conditions who require multiple prescription medications and pay for them out-of-pocket, said John Love, vice president at Amazon Pharmacy. Love said the lack of pricing transparency around prescription medications drove the company’s decision to start the service. 

“The bulk of scripts Americans get are administered the same way they have been for decades,” Love said. “The patient drives [to the pharmacy], they stand in a communal environment…and they find out the price at the point of care.” 

While a full list of medications was not immediately available, RxPass will cover a range of hypertensives for high blood pressure and Venlafaxine for anxiety and depression. 

The service is not available to anyone enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, or any other government healthcare program because those people have a $0 copay, Love said. RxPass will use the company’s existing pharmacy infrastructure and distribution channels, he said. 

RxPass is the latest salvo from the big tech company in the pharmacy space through its Amazon Pharmacy subsidiary. In 2018, the company bought online pharmacy company PillPack for $750 million. It also partnered with multiple Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans to provide medications through home delivery. And it rolled out PrimeRx in late 2020, allowing people to compare the prices of medications and offers potential savings. 

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Amazon works with Inside Rx, a prescription drug pricing comparison service owned by Express Scripts, to administer RxPass and PrimeRx.  

ScriptCo pharmacy, a membership-based pharmacy company, offers a similar service to RxPass for an annual fee of $140. 

In the last few years, generic medications have become a focal area for startups and industry disrupters.

A group of health systems and philanthropic organizations launched nonprofit Civica Rx in 2018 to make generic medications more widely available. In March 2022, the nonprofit said it was planning to produce insulin that will be available at lower prices, making it more accessible to people with diabetes. 

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban co-founded a mail order pharmacy service called The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co., which works with drug manufacturers to offer generic drugs at fixed-rate markups. It partnered with EmansaRx, the pharmacy benefit manager spun out of the Purchaser Business Group on Health, in December to provide discounted prescription drugs to self-insured employers.  

As Amazon waits for federal approval of its proposed $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical, the tech giant furthered its investment with the launch of Amazon Clinic in November

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