Amazon is expanding its growing health-care business by introducing a prescription drug discount programme.
The retail behemoth announced Tuesday the launch of RxPass, a subscription service for Prime members. People will pay $5 per month to fill as many prescriptions as they need from a list of about 50 generic medications, which are typically less expensive versions of brand-name medications.
According to the company, the flat fee could cover a variety of medications, including the antibiotic amoxicillin and the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen.
Sildenafil was also on the list. It is used to treat erectile dysfunction and a type of high blood pressure under the brand name Viagra.
Amazon’s pharmacy service sells a variety of generic drugs. Some are already as low as $1 for a 30-day supply, so the benefit of this new programme will vary depending on the customer.
People with government-funded Medicaid or Medicare coverage are not eligible for the programme, which does not use insurance. At launch, it will be available in 42 states and Washington, D.C.
Any programme that brings low-cost generic drugs to more patients “is a good thing,” according to Karen Van Nuys, an economist at the University of Southern California who studies drug pricing. She did, however, add that she is unsure how much of an impact RxPass will have.
She mentioned that the programme is only available to Amazon Prime members. Other options, such as the Mark Cuban CostPlus Drug Co., sell more generic drugs, many of which are priced under $5.
“I just don’t think it’s opening up access to a new group of patients,” Van Nuys said.
Nonetheless, the move may help the company gain some ground in the health care market, despite the fact that it has not always been successful in this endeavour. After failing to gain traction with employers, Amazon Care, a hybrid virtual, in-home care service, was discontinued last year. Haven, a company Amazon founded with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to reduce health-care costs, was dissolved a year earlier.
Amazon has stated that its online drug store Amazon Pharmacy, as well as primary care organisation One Medical, which the online retailer is attempting to acquire for $3.9 billion, are important parts of its health care strategy. The proposed buyout is being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission.
In November, Amazon also announced the launch of “Amazon Clinic,” a messaging service that connects patients with doctors for a variety of common conditions such as allergies and hair loss.