Amazon launches $5-a-month prescription drug program as it dives deeper into healthcare

Topline

Amazon on Tuesday announced a new prescription drug program offering subscribers as many drugs as they need for one flat price, the online retailer’s latest salvo in its bid to lure customers away from pharmacies as big players in technology are pushing further into the healthcare sector.

Highlights

RxPass will allow US Prime members to fill as many prescriptions as they need from a list of more than 50 generic drugs and have them delivered for free, the online retailer announced.

The service will cost $5 per month on top of a Prime subscription, which currently sits at $14.99 per month or $139 per year excluding sales tax and discounts for students and government aid recipients.

Amazon said the service will cover drugs used to treat more than 80 common conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety and acid reflux.

The list of medications covered includes the antibiotics amoxicillin and doxycycline, the antifungal nystatin, the antihypertensive losartan, and the anti-inflammatory naproxen.

It also includes a series of generic drugs used to treat mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, including the antidepressants sertraline, venlafaxine, escitalopram and bupropion (sold under the brand names respectively Zoloft, Effexor, Lexapro and Wellbutrin) and the antipsychotics quetiapine and risperidone (sold under the brand names Seroquel and Risperdal).

The erectile dysfunction remedy sildenafil, widely known by the brand name Viagra and also used to treat a form of high blood pressure, was also on the list, as was finasteride (sold under the brand name Propecia) and dutasteride, drugs mainly used to treat enlarged prostates which are also prescribed to fight hair loss in men (the FDA has not authorized dutasteride for this purpose but it is prescribed off-label).

Key Context

Amazon has fierce ambitions in healthcare and has invested heavily in the sector to make it a reality. The e-commerce giant announced itself as a competitor to brick-and-mortar pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid when it launched its own online pharmacy in 2020. The company is also expanding into other health areas, including telehealth, mental health. and primary care and is working on a nearly $4 billion deal to acquire healthcare provider One Medical. Amazon isn’t the only tech giant jumping into the healthcare space. Microsoft, Google parent Alphabet, and Apple all have bold visions for healthcare and have spent billions to realize them.

Tangent

Amazon says it wants to help Americans save time and money and stay healthy, and the retailer is working to retain Prime customers after raising prices last year. The move may not help it expand its Prime user base, as Amazon already sells a wide range of generic drugs through its online pharmacy. Some listed under the program, such as folic acid to treat anemia or blood clotting, biotin to treat skin conditions, and glipizide to treat diabetes, cost $2 or less for a 30-day supply. . Nor is Amazon the only company capitalizing on cheaper generic drugs. The company faces competition from companies like Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company, which sells a wider range of generic drugs without needing to subscribe to a broader service.

Large number

150 million. This is the number of Americans estimated by Amazon who take one or more of the drugs available through its RxPass program.

The full list

Amazon has listed the following drugs as falling under the RxPass program.

  • Allopurinol
  • Amlodipine
  • Amoxicillin
  • Atorvastatin
  • Azelastine
  • Benztropine
  • Biotin
  • Bupropion
  • Cephalexin
  • Cyclobenzaprine
  • Cyproheptadine
  • Donepezil
  • Doxazosin
  • Doxepin
  • Doxycycline
  • Dutasteride
  • Escitalopram
  • Estradiol
  • Finasteride
  • Fluticasone
  • Folic acid
  • Furosemide
  • Glipizide
  • Glyburide
  • Hyoscyamine
  • Lamotrigine
  • Lisinopril
  • Losartan
  • Methimazole
  • Mometasone
  • Naproxen
  • Nystatin
  • Omeprazole
  • Ondansetron
  • Oxybutynin
  • Phenytoin
  • Piroxicam
  • Pramipexole
  • Quetiapine
  • ramipril
  • Risperidone
  • Rizatriptan
  • Ropinirole
  • Rosuvastatin
  • Sertraline
  • Sildenafil
  • Simvastatin
  • sotalol
  • Tamoxifen citrate
  • Terazosin
  • Tizanidine
  • Venlafaxine
  • Vitamin B12

Further reading

Amazon’s Creep Into Health Care Scares Some Experts (Wired)

Tech companies are still figuring out their paths to healthcare (Verge)

Amazon’s healthcare ambitions sometimes clashed with medical best practices, nurses say (Washington Post)

Amazon launches $5-a-month prescription drug program as it dives deeper into healthcare

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