Amazon Pharmacy on Tuesday announced a bold initiative: coupons and automatic savings for more than 15 insulin and diabetes care brands. With this new offer, eligible customers will be able to gain access to various brands of insulin starting at $35 per month, in addition to other commonly prescribed products such as continuous glucose monitors and pumps from companies such as Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Dexcom. and Insulets.
Although manufacturer coupons for medications have been around for a long time, actually using them effectively often involved a cumbersome process. The patient usually has to find the right coupon from the company, make sure it matches the drug prescribed and ensure that the coupon is used on time before it expires. Now, with Amazon Pharmacy, this coupon will be applied automatically to the drug during checkout, meaning that customers are assured of saving, when available.
Vin Gupta, a critical care physician, US Air Force major, and chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy, explains to me the impact of this initiative: “The coupon program has been around for a while, and now we’re introducing it for insulin. With this new initiative, patients can simply go to our website, search for a specific insulin and they will get a price estimate based on available coupons and their insurance coverage.”
“The highest value proposition is for those without insurance coverage. These patients no longer have to look for coupons or ways to save; these coupons will be applied automatically, creating enormous value,” he added.
“The reason why Amazon Pharmacy is doing things differently is because many patients don’t know that coupons are available. In fact, 85% of the time an available coupon drug is prescribed, the coupon is never used,” says Dr. Gupta. “We’re trying to close that gap for insulin and the broader suite of drugs and really unlock the value behind those savings for patients automatically—so they don’t have to worry about if they’re getting the best price.”
Indeed, the lack of transparency in drug prices and in particular the rising cost of insulin has increasingly caught the attention of the American public in recent years. More recently, the federal government has made insulin pricing a top priority on its list, especially since its price has skyrocketed over the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 drug that is used every day. The lack of affordability of insulin has caused a significant stir in both patients and regulators.
Charles Henderson, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, explained in a press release: “We commend Amazon Pharmacy for innovating on behalf of patients and taking important actions to help ensure people living with diabetes can easily access the care they need through transparent purchasing. process that automatically applies qualifying discounts.”
Amazon Pharmacy is indeed a powerful force in the world of healthcare and drug delivery. The company’s RxPass program, for example, has been celebrated as one of the most successful marriages of retail principles to healthcare. Members can subscribe to the program for $5 per month and gain access to a wide range of medications for many common health care conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. And, in true Amazon fashion, the drug is delivered to your doorstep, free of charge. Certainly, Amazon has disrupted the pharmaceutical space with its technology-forward mindset and innovation-focused mission.
Amazon Pharmacy is increasingly trying to stay true to its retail roots, prioritizing the pillars of convenience, value and affordability. Dr. Gupta is passionate about the fact that this service gives patients 24/7 access to a clinical pharmacist, so that patients on high-risk medications or those who need general assistance can contact, if any questions or clarifications are needed.
Interestingly, many other companies are trying to stake a claim in this arena. Walmart has become known for its $4 prescription lists, giving consumers affordable access to medicines for many chronic conditions. Traditional brick-and-mortar companies such as Walgreens and CVS have also entered the drug delivery business, seeking to provide more convenience to their customers. Perhaps the most well-known player in recent years has been Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company. Cuban started the company with the same goal of providing customers with transparent prices and lower-priced medicines: “Everyone should have safe and affordable medicines at transparent prices.” Since its inception, the Cost Plus Drug company has received significant acclaim for its efforts.
Overall, competition to provide patients with access to cheaper treatment is a step in the right direction to ultimately improve healthcare outcomes. For Amazon specifically, if the company’s past efforts are any indication of its future success, this new initiative and Amazon Pharmacy as a whole will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with— especially given the company’s relentless ambition to provide greater value for patients and society. . .
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