Amazon is taking another bold step into the world of healthcare, further strengthening its powerful footprint in the business-to-consumer “B2C” space. Earlier this week, the tech giant announced its new “RxPass” program, which is a $5 subscription plan that allows Amazon Prime members easy access and free delivery for a variety of medications.
Dr. Vin Gupta, pulmonologist and Chief Medical Officer for Amazon Pharmacy, explains in his post: “Over the past decade as a practicing pulmonologist, I have seen patients with chronic diseases struggle to access the basic medications they need to live their lives. we will. Navigating insurance can be a maze and getting to the pharmacy can be a burden. Sometimes it has led to poor outcomes: New medications are not filled, refills are not picked up, and patients suffer. Aspects of Healthcare ours makes what should be easy difficult, which is why I feel so fortunate to be a part of the change that Amazon Pharmacy is helping to bring to this area.”
The post goes on to explain the details of the new initiative from Amazon: “RxPass [is] a new Prime member benefit from Amazon Pharmacy that gives patients affordable access to generic medications that treat more than 80 common health conditions for just $5 a month. With RxPass, Prime members can get as many eligible medications as they need for a flat, low fee of $5 and have them delivered to their door for free.”
In fact, the company is trying to solve a very real pain point. Millions of Americans (Amazon estimates nearly 150 million Americans) require the same medications available on RxPass. However, for many people, acquiring these medications is not a simple process. Often that involves navigating a cumbersome process with insurance, submitting claims, paying co-pays and actually having to go to the physical pharmacy to pick up the medicine when it’s ready. RxPass effectively attempts to remove a number of these barriers, particularly by eliminating the insurance component of the process.
The platform even offers robust customer service: patients can call the helpline, which can help directly coordinate with the doctor’s office. If all goes smoothly, patients can expect their medications to arrive at their doorstep.
There has been significant attention in the pharmacy space over the last decade, especially as the cost of prescription drugs has skyrocketed and is often a prohibitive factor for people to get the treatment they need.
Another notable venture in this area is led by American entrepreneur, early technology investor, media personality and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban. Last year, Cuban announced a revolutionary initiative called the CostPlus Drug Company – a means to make drugs more affordable and easier to obtain for Americans. He explains that “We started Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company because all Americans should have access to safe, affordable medications. If you don’t have insurance or have a high deductible plan, you know that even the most basic medications can cost a fortune. Many people spend insane amounts of money every month just to stay healthy. No American should have to suffer or worse – because they can’t afford basic prescription drugs.”
“When you get your medicine from Cost Plus Drug Co., you’ll always know exactly how we arrived at the price you pay. And as we grow and our costs come down, we’ll always pass those savings on to you! We started this company as an effort to disrupt the pharmaceutical industry and to do our best to end ridiculous drug prices.”
At their core, Cuban and Amazon are tackling a very similar question: what is the most practical and affordable way to increase people’s access to life-saving medicines?
While both companies will undoubtedly face growing pains in the coming years from regulators, policymakers, healthcare professionals and patients themselves, one thing is certain: both companies have incredible potential to help increase access to care for millions of people.