On Tuesday, Amazon Pharmacy announced a bold initiative: automatic coupons and savings for more than 15 insulin and diabetes care brands. With this new offering, eligible customers will be able to gain access to a variety of insulin brands starting at $35 a month, in addition to other commonly prescribed products such as continuous glucose monitors and pumps from companies like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Dexcom and Insulet.
Though manufacturer coupons for medications have been around for a long time, actually using them effectively often entails a cumbersome process. Patients normally have to find the right coupon from the company, make sure it matches the exact medication that was prescribed, and ensure that it is used in a timely manner before expiration. Now, with Amazon Pharmacy, these coupons will be automatically applied for a medication during checkout, meaning that customers are ensured savings, if they are available.
In a discussion with Forbes, Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care physician, Major in the U.S. Air Force, and the Chief Medical Officer of Amazon Pharmacy, explains the impact of this initiative: “The coupons program has been around for some time, and now we are introducing it for insulin. With this new initiative, a patient can simply go to our website, search for a specific insulin, and they’ll get an estimated price based on the available coupons and their insurance coverage.”
“The highest value proposition is for those without insurance coverage. These patients no longer have to go searching for coupons or ways to save; these coupons are going to be applied automatically, creating huge value. The reason why Amazon Pharmacy is doing something different is because many patients don’t know that coupons readily exist. In fact, 85% of the time that a medication with an available coupon is prescribed, the coupon is never used. We are trying to close that gap for both insulin and a broader set of medications, and really unlock the value behind those savings for patients automatically—so they never have to worry about if they are getting the best price. This is the value of Amazon Pharmacy, and this is why it is so impactful.”
Indeed, lack of price transparency for medications and specifically the rising costs of insulin have increasingly garnered the attention of the American public in the last few years. Recently, the federal government has made insulin pricing a major priority on its docket, especially as its prices have skyrocketed over the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 37.3 million people have diabetes in the United States, which is nearly 11.3% of the country’s population. For many of these patients, insulin is a life-saving medication that is used on a daily basis. Lack of affordability of insulin has triggered significant uproar both among patients and regulators.
Charles Henderson, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, explains in the press release: “We applaud Amazon Pharmacy for innovating on behalf of patients and taking the important action to help ensure people living with diabetes can easily access the treatments they need through a transparent purchase process that automatically applies any eligible discounts.”
Amazon Pharmacy has indeed become a powerful force in the world of healthcare and medication delivery. The company’s RxPass program, for example, has been celebrated as one of the most successful marriages of retail principles with healthcare. Members can subscribe to this program for $5 a month and get access to a broad set of medications for many common healthcare conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. And, in true Amazon fashion, these medications are delivered to the doorstep, free of charge. Assuredly, Amazon has disrupted the pharmacy space with its tech-forward mindset and innovation focused mission.
Dr. Gupta is especially enthusiastic about the impact on patient lives: “Our belief is that the world does not need another pharmacy. It needs a fundamentally better pharmacy experience—both for the patients, but also for the providers. What are we [Amazon] really good at? We are good at acting based off of our core retail roots—driving convenience, value, and affordability through upfront pricing and direct delivery. Moreover, we are able to provide patients incredible service, including 24/7 clinical pharmacist support. This is how we are trying to get closer to our customers—by really keeping their priorities first.”
If Amazon’s past ventures are any indication of its future successes, this new initiative and Amazon Pharmacy as a whole will undoubtedly be a force to reckon with— especially given the company’s relentless ambition to provide better value for patients and communities.
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