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Tech Matters: The future of filling prescriptions is here

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 1, 2023

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Leslie Meredith

Amazon has officially entered the pharmaceuticals distribution market as its invitation-only Amazon Pharmacy program opened to the public Tuesday. A new offering under its Amazon Prime membership program, members can add RxPass for an additional $5 per month.

The monthly add-on fee includes all eligible generic medications delivered to the member’s door at no additional charge. Medications include those used to treat more than 80 common health conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety and acid reflux. Patients do not use health insurance with RxPass, so there are no deductibles or copays involved. If patients have questions, Amazon pharmacists or support staff are on hand 24/7 to discuss medications and coordinate with a patient’s doctor if necessary. The subscription can be canceled at any time.

Amazon Pharmacy’s chief medical officer, Dr. Vin Gupta, explained why easier access to prescriptions is a necessity in an Amazon blog post. “Over the last decade as a practicing pulmonologist, I have seen patients with chronic diseases struggle to get access to the basic medications they need to live their lives well. Navigating insurance can be a maze and getting to the pharmacy a burden. Sometimes that has led to poor outcomes: New medications don’t get filled, refills don’t get picked up, and patients suffer.”

According to a 2021 poll by health care polling firm KFF, nearly half of U.S. adults take two or more medications each day. Further, while about 8 in 10 adults said the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable but they can easily afford them, about 32% of those who take four or more prescriptions each day find it difficult to afford the medicine they need. And who wouldn’t want to spend less on prescriptions if that was an option?

In his post, Gupta said the company estimated that more than 150 million Americans take one or more of the medications available through the RxPass monthly subscription.

But there is one big group that will not qualify for RxPass at this time: those who are enrolled in a government health care program, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, these people can still use their government insurance to fill prescriptions at Amazon Pharmacy and have their prescriptions delivered to their homes.

To find out if RxPass makes sense for you, head to Amazon on your computer or use the Amazon app on your phone. If you do not see “Pharmacy” at the top of the screen, select “All” and scroll down to find it under “Programs & Features.” Type in the name of your prescription to see whether it is available with RxPass; look for a pill icon with the words RxPass. You can compare the insurance price, the retail price and Amazon’s Pharmacy price against the $5 per month RxPass price for one or more prescriptions.

Even if your prescription is not part of the new RxPass, you may still want to do some comparison shopping to see if Amazon Pharmacy’s price with or without insurance is less than what you’re now paying. If it is, you may want to transfer your current prescription to Amazon Pharmacy.

Whether you’re adding RxPass or transferring a prescription to Amazon Pharmacy, the process is the same for ordering your medications. Select your drug and then add or transfer the prescription to Amazon. You’ll need your prescribing physician’s name so that your prescription can be verified. If you’re transferring a prescription, you’ll also type in your current pharmacy name and choose the correct location for a list of options. RxPass members ordering eligible medications get free two-day delivery. All Prime members also get free two-day delivery on Amazon Pharmacy orders, while non-Prime members get free four- to five-day delivery.

Here’s a tip to avoid a delay between when your doctor writes a new prescription for you and the fastest free Amazon delivery. Download the Amazon app to your phone so you can check availability and pricing on the spot. If your new prescription is available through RxPass or you want to have Amazon Pharmacy fulfill it to take advantage of free home delivery, ask your doctor for a sample to fill the gap.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness, and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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