Striving to compete with America’s biggest pharmacy chains, Amazon is launching a $5-a-month prescription plan in which Amazon Prime members get as many drugs as they need from a roster of 50 generic medications.
The medications in question are used to treat more than 80 chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety, acid reflux, diabetes and even male pattern baldness.
In addition to costing only $5 a month, the medications are delivered to your home for free, Amazon says.
This new prescription benefit, called RxPass, is Amazon’s latest effort to expand its reach in health care. In the pharmacy industry in particular, Amazon is trying to lure pharmacy customers away from its main competitors — CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.
If you’re already an Amazon Prime member (which costs $139 a year) and you get your meds somewhere else, it might be worth checking to see how much money you might save by switching to this $5-a-month drug delivery service.
Here’s Amazon’s list of 50 common generic medications available from RxPass, from Allopurinol (for gout) to Venlafaxine (an antidepressant).
To sign up, go to the Amazon Pharmacy website.
Patients don’t use health insurance with RxPass, so you don’t need to worry about deductibles or copays. You’ll be charged a flat $5 monthly fee on top of your monthly Prime membership dues.
However, patients who are enrolled in government health care programs like Medicare or Medicaid aren’t able to sign up for RxPass.
How Amazon Pharmacy Works
The launch of RxPass comes a little over two years after the launch of Amazon Pharmacy, which debuted in November 2020.
Amazon Pharmacy is now available in all 50 states to Prime and non-Prime members. Customers can transfer existing prescriptions over to the online platform or ask doctors to call in prescriptions directly.
Amazon Pharmacy’s medications include typical pills and creams, as well as refrigerated prescriptions like insulin. However, it doesn’t offer Schedule II controlled medications (i.e., opioids).
Aside from the new RxPass, here are some of Amazon Pharmacy’s other features:
- Upfront price transparency: Amazon Pharmacy allows you to compare the price of the medication between multiple drug companies, and you can determine the cost of each prescription if paying with your insurance copay versus using Amazon Pharmacy’s discount card without insurance. This gives you far greater flexibility than you would get at a traditional pharmacy.
- Prescription savings card: Amazon Prime members can save up to 80% off generic prescriptions and 40% off brand-name medications when paying without insurance. Prime members can also collect these savings at more than 60,000 participating pharmacies across the country by using Amazon’s digital prescription savings card instead of paying with insurance. This card functions similarly to ones provided by GoodRx and SingleCare, which offer patients significant discounts on prescriptions when they pay without insurance.
- Free two-day shipping for Prime Members: Amazon Pharmacy is most advantageous if you are a Prime member ($139 a year), as you will earn free two-day shipping. But even if you don’t have Prime, you can still purchase your prescriptions through Amazon Pharmacy. Free delivery takes four to five days, but you can spend $5.99 to expedite shipping (two days).
- 24/7 customer service: Amazon offers online self-service as well as customer service over the phone with real pharmacists 24/7.
Amazon does allow you to pay with insurance and accepts most major insurances. The price is likely to be comparable to what you would pay at CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid as your copay, according to Consumer Reports.
Amazon Pharmacy accepts all major credit and debit cards. Customers with an HSA or FSA can input their card information to make purchases as well.
Before You Order From Amazon Pharmacy…
If you take medications that aren’t covered by RxPass, you have some different calculations to make.
With e-commerce usage at an all-time high, you may be considering leaving your traditional pharmacy in favor of ordering your prescription from your couch. However, Amazon Pharmacy may not always be the best choice.
As with any pharmacy, the surefire way to make sure you’re getting the best deal is to call around. Many pharmacies can also do price-matching if you find a cheaper prescription elsewhere, so if you have a preferred pharmacy, you still may be able to save just as much with it as you would with Amazon Pharmacy.
Don’t forget about GoodRx and SingleCare, which also offer discounts at brick-and-mortar pharmacies. These could get you similar — or even better — savings on specific prescriptions than you’d get with Amazon.
Most importantly, before opting to buy a prescription without insurance because of the savings, consider your deductible. If you are on a high-deductible health insurance plan and would like to potentially meet that deductible in a given year, note that any money you spend on prescriptions sans insurance will not apply to that deductible, thus making it less likely you will hit the annual requirement to increase insurance contributions to medical bills.
Amazon Clinic: The Next Step in Amazon’s Health Care Journey
In November 2022, Amazon officially announced its new Amazon Clinic offering. Still in its early stages, Amazon Clinic offers affordable virtual care for select health conditions, often faster than patients could get in to see an in-person doctor.
Amazon Clinic is available in 33 states, though Amazon plans to expand in the coming months. For reference, Amazon Pharmacy started in 45 states in 2020 and has since expanded to all 50.
With Amazon Clinic, patients will be able to see pricing upfront, rather than wait for a dreaded medical bill in the mail weeks after an appointment. However, Amazon Clinic does not yet accept insurance, meaning you’ll be paying out of pocket (and costs won’t go toward your deductible).
Amazon acknowledges that telemedicine isn’t right for every condition; sometimes you need to see a doctor in person for tests, observation and treatment. If you try to use Amazon Clinic for an issue that doesn’t make sense for virtual health care, Amazon will let you know from the start — so there’s no risk that you’ll pay for a consultation that ultimately offers no solution.
Qualifying conditions for Amazon Clinic include acne, birth control, eczema, GERD, hair loss, migraines, motion sickness and seasonal allergies.
The big appeal of Amazon Clinic is the flexibility — you can talk with a doctor about health concerns while at work, cooking dinner or lying in bed. Speed is also noteworthy: While it may take several days or weeks to see a primary care physician, Amazon Clinic can get you connected with a doctor in just a few hours.
The cost of a consultation will vary by provider but does include follow-up messaging with the provider for two weeks. Consultations are solely message-based (no video). Doctors on the platform can write prescriptions — and you can even utilize Amazon Pharmacy seamlessly after your consultation.
Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Pointypress. Contributor Timothy Moore is a writer and editor in Cincinnati who covers banks, loans, insurance, travel and automotive topics for The Pointypress.