Amazon adds generic prescription benefit for Prime members

The Amazon Pharmacy home screen on a laptop laid out in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S. on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.

Gaby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Amazon on Tuesday announced a new prescription benefit for US Prime members, hoping to increase subscriptions and attract users to its pharmacy service.

The add-on, called RxPass, will allow Prime members to get as many drugs as they need from a list of 50 generic drugs to treat more than 80 common chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, anxiety and diabetes. The service costs $5 per month per person and delivery is free.

Amazon has pushed further into healthcare in recent years. The company launched its own online pharmacy in 2020, a service spun off from its 2018 acquisition of PillPack. Amazon introduced, then shut down, a telehealth service called Amazon Care, and announced in July that it would acquire the provider of One Medical primary care. .

Amazon also offers a Prime prescription savings benefit, which offers up to 80% off generic drugs and up to 40% off brand name prescriptions.

Amazon is beefing up the benefits of its Prime membership program as CEO Andy Jassy seeks to cut costs elsewhere in the business. Amazon plans to lay off around 18,000 employees, while freezing employee hiring and cutting some projects. Still, Jassy said Amazon intends to continue to pursue long-term opportunities, including healthcare.

The online retailer faces drugstore competition from CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Amazon hasn’t said how its online pharmacy offering has fared since its launch. An August report from Morgan Stanley found that Amazon Pharmacy did not rank among the top benefits for Prime members, based on a user survey, according to Business Insider.

Amazon chief medical officer Vin Gupta said the company aims to provide a “fundamentally different” pharmacy experience from how pharmacies have existed for decades.

“It’s still the first day for us where we are in our early days here, but we recognize that a change is needed,” Gupta said in an interview. “That’s what patients across the country are telling us, and that’s what Amazon is responding to.”

RxPass does not offer insulin or specialty medications, and it is not available to people on Medicaid or Medicare. Gupta declined to say whether Amazon would expand the list of drugs offered through RxPass in the future.

About 150 million people take at least one of the drugs included in the initial RxPass form, he said.

— CNBC’s Bertha Coombs contributed to this article.

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