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01/24/2023

Amazon launches prescription subscription plan — for $5 a month

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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RxPass
Amazon is rolling out RxPass, a new option for Prime members.

Amazon is expanding its push into health care and enhancing its Prime benefits with a low-cost monthly prescription program for common generic medications.

The e-tail giant has launched RxPass, a new offering for U.S. Prime Members from Amazon Pharmacy. The plan allows Prime members in most states to order as many prescriptions as they need from a list of some 50 generic drugs — for a flat monthly add-on fee of $5 to Prime membership, with no other mark-ups. The available medications, which will be delivered free of charge, treat more than 80 common health conditions, including high blood pressure, acid reflux and diabetes.

It’s estimated that more than 150 million Americans take one or more of the medications available through the RxPass monthly subscription, according to Amazon. The company noted that since patients do not use health insurance with the plan, they don’t need to worry about deductibles or copay.

With regard to eligibility, people with government-funded insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid are not eligible to sign up for RxPass “right now,” according to Amazon. Additionally, the program is not currently available to send medications to California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington.

“Prime members already get fast, free delivery on prescription medications, and RxPass is one more way to save with Amazon Pharmacy,” said John Love, VP of Amazon Pharmacy. “Any customer who pays more than $10 a month for their eligible medications will see their prescription costs drop by 50% or more, plus they save time by skipping a trip to the pharmacy.”

To enroll in RxPass, Prime members can go to the Amazon site or mobile app to create or update their Amazon Pharmacy profile. Once there, customers will be guided through an online sign-up process that verifies their eligibility and prescription information.

If customers have questions during the enrollment process or after a prescription arrives, Amazon pharmacists can consult on a 24/7 basis to coordinate with a customer’s doctor or help with refills.

Prescription medication is big business

Prescription medication is a $300 billion-plus market that is dominated by pharmacy giants such as CVS Health, Walgreens and Rite Aid, along with supermarkets and discounters that offer prescriptions, such as Walmart.

In addition, Mark Cuban, billionaire entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-star of the TV show “Shark Tank,’ launched an online pharmacy with an initial inventory of more than 100 generic drugs, the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug (MCCPDC) Company, in January 2022.

The cash pay pharmacy's prices reflect actual manufacturer prices plus a flat 15% margin and a $3 pharmacist fee, with prescription fulfillment and delivery through a partnership with digital healthcare company Truepill.

Amazon moves into pharmacy, healthcare

Amazon has been active in the healthcare space in general, and the pharmacy vertical in particular, in the past few years. In addition to launching Amazon Pharmacy in November 2020, the company acquired online pharmacy startup PillPack in 2018. Now known as PillPack by Amazon, it specializes in delivering presorted dose packaging for managing multiple daily medications for chronic conditions. 

In other healthcare moves, in July 2022, Amazon entered into an agreement to acquire One Medical, a membership-based primary healthcare provider, for $3.9 billion, its third-biggest acquisition to date. The San Francisco-based healthcare startup offers a combination of in-person, digital and virtual care services, promising members “24/7 access to virtual care.”

And in November 2022, the e-tailer rolled out its new Amazon Clinic virtual healthcare solution in 32 states. Amazon Clinic provides virtual care for more than 20 common health conditions, such as allergies, acne, and hair loss.

In a statement at the time of the July 2022 One Medical acquisition, Neil Lindsay, senior VP of Amazon Health Services, said that Amazon believes “health care is high on the list of experiences that need reinvention.”