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Amazon Launches $5 Monthly RxPass Subscription For Prime Members

Amazon Pharmacy customers can now cut their prescription-related costs with the service's new monthly pharmacy subscription, says a bulletin this morning from Amazon Pharmacy Chief Medical Officer Dr. Vin Gupta. According to the January 24 Amazon announcement, the subscription is called the "RxPass," and includes a total of 60 generic drugs that treat over 80 common medical problems. For a flat fee of $5 per month, Prime customers can have as many eligible medications delivered to their door as they need.

Any medication orders filled through the Amazon Pharmacy and RxPass require a prescription slip from a physician just as any traditional pharmacy would, but automatic refill and delivery options are available. 

There is no contractual obligation to RxPass, except for in cases where a medication supply spanning more than one month is ordered. For example, if a Prime customer purchases a 90-day supply of their prescription through RxPass, they are then committed to paying the monthly $5 for the duration of that supply — even if they cancel their subscription in the meantime. 

Not every Prime member will have access to the monthly prescription subscription service. According to Amazon Pharmacy, RxPass is not currently offered to customers in the following states: California, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Other Amazon Pharmacy services reportedly remain available in those states. Additionally, Prime members that utilize government-subsidized insurance programs including Medicaid and Medicare are not eligible to use the service.

Complex conditions and illnesses requiring specialized or controlled substances are also not likely to see any benefit from Amazon's RxPass at this time. The service is capable of fulfilling subscriptions for common ailments, such as allergies, antibiotics and antifungals, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, mental health, and skin conditions. There are, interestingly enough, some arguably complex diagnoses included in the subscription's list of covered treatments — like Parkinson's, dementia, breast cancer, and seizures — but even patients of these illnesses can only access generic medication through the RxPass system.

Amazon Pharmacy and billionaire Mark Cuban seem to share at least one common goal: to make prescription medications more affordable and accessible to average Americans. In fact, a report from the Sol Price School of Public Policy deemed the current American healthcare landscape and cost of life-saving drugs "ripe for disruption." 

Cuban's attempt to do so is Cost Plus Drugs, an online prescription filling service that slashes the red tape of insurance and inflated cost of popular generic drugs. Cost Plus discloses its 15% profit and overhead markup, plus pharmacy partner fees, but still appears to be Amazon Pharmacy's leading competitor in the new competitive field of online prescription fulfillment.

It may appeal more to consumers to pay Amazon $5 for the fulfillment of three generic prescriptions each month as opposed to anywhere from $5 to $30 for that same refill from Cost Plus, but Cuban's company still holds one significant advantage: A firm separation from the middlemen of insurance, which are still a requirement to engage Amazon Pharmacy services. Through Amazon, members are still able to compare medication prices across participating online pharmacies. But both services still face challenges, like shipping medications that require refrigeration. 

Will Jeff Bezos' or Mark Cuban's new service be the one to finally bring reform to the pharmaceutical industry — if one does at all? That "remains to be seen," according to Sol 

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