Pharma

Amazon Pharmacy expands RxPass to Medicare beneficiaries

The move makes the medication delivery service available to 50+ million more people.
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Francis Scialabba

4 min read

Amazon Pharmacy announced on June 18 that, effective immediately, its RxPass medication delivery service will be available to more than 50 million Medicare beneficiaries, a move the company says could save up to $2 billion annually for the federal health insurance program.

The tech giant started RxPass—a $5 monthly subscription for unlimited generic drugs—in January 2023 in an attempt to compete with more established pharmacy players like CVS and Walgreens.

“Expanding RxPass to Medicare beneficiaries can help solve for affordability and access challenges among a patient population who experiences high levels of chronic disease,” Vin Gupta, chief medical officer at Amazon Pharmacy, said in a statement.

Under the RxPass program, Medicare beneficiaries can access 60 eligible prescriptions—including those that treat high blood pressure, diabetes, and anxiety—and have the option to connect with a pharmacist 24/7.

Beneficiaries using RxPass to purchase one medication could save an estimated $70 per year, Amazon executives said in a press release. If every Medicare enrollee used the service for at least one medication, the program would save roughly $2 billion annually, the execs estimated.

Medicare spent an estimated $1 trillion in 2023, according to the US Government Accountability Office.

Gupta told Healthcare Brew that the company decided to expand into Medicare to make the service available to patients regardless of age.

“When we launched this service back in 2023, we just wanted it to be as broadly accessible as possible so that those that are battling chronic disease or multiple chronic diseases could have the medications they need in the most streamlined way possible,” Gupta said.

He added that by making it easier for patients to access their medications, RxPass could help the Medicare population improve medication adherence, as many as 50% of adults in the US with chronic diseases don’t take their medications as prescribed according to one study.

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For patients with chronic diseases, nonadherence is estimated to lead to at least 100,000 preventable deaths each year, as well as cost $100 billion in preventable medical costs annually, according to a study from the University of California San Francisco.

“There are a high number of adults who, whether due to cost, mobility, or simply not having time to collect their medications from the pharmacy, are not adhering to a medication regimen that could be life-saving,” Gupta said in a statement. “When a patient’s medication arrives regularly at their door, at a price they can afford, we see better long-term health outcomes.”

Amazon Pharmacy’s move into Medicare comes after the company announced in March it was expanding same-day medication delivery to New York and Los Angeles. Also in March, Amazon Pharmacy partnered with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly to deliver medications—including the GLP-1 Zepbound, an Ozempic competitor—to patients’ homes.

In October 2023, Amazon Pharmacy also started a drone delivery service in College Station, Texas, in which the company can drop off more than 500 medications to people’s doorsteps within an hour of placing an order.

Looking ahead, Gupta said Amazon Pharmacy will continue looking for ways to improve the process of obtaining prescriptions, because “the existing pharmacy experience today just is not working.”

“Most providers—and I think, as a result, patients—are habituated to a pharmacy experience that is less than, and that’s just average, and I would argue it’s just unacceptable when it comes to how we want to support our patients,” he said.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.