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Most people in the U.S. do a great deal of shopping on Amazon. Everything from running shoes to granola bars is available there, and with a Prime membership, many items are eligible for next-day delivery.
Now, Amazon is moving into an entirely new marketplace: Pharmaceuticals. That’s right. Amazon is looking to displace your reliance on RiteAid, CVS or Walgreens in favor of delivered-right-to-your-door prescriptions.
How does Amazon Pharmacy work? Is it really more efficient and convenient than sticking with your traditional pharmacy? Could your medications be less expensive if you bought them through Amazon Pharmacy?
Keep reading to learn more about this latest innovation from the retail giant.
What Is Amazon Pharmacy?
The concept behind Amazon Pharmacy is simple. No one likes to go the pharmacy and wait in line, so Amazon is offering an online alternative that will mail all of your prescriptions right to your front door.
Amazon boasts that they accept and work with most insurance plans. If you do not have insurance, you still may be able to score cheaper prices on prescriptions by being an Amazon Prime member. Signing up for the service is supposed to be really easy. Amazon Pharmacy will even transfer your prescriptions from your current pharmacy, and pharmacists employed by Amazon can coordinate with your insurance company and your medical provider.
The rest is easy. Your medications will be delivered to you in discreet packaging with no need for you to drive to the pharmacy.
The Benefits of Choosing Amazon Pharmacy
Amazon lists many benefits that customers will gain by choosing their pharmacy. As with most other pharmacies, Amazon Pharmacy accepts the majority of insurance plans and everything is reviewed by licensed pharmacists.
However, Amazon Pharmacy claims to go further by making pharmacists available to customers on a 24/7 basis. Moreover, customers get up-front pricing, medications are delivered to the customer’s door and some medications are as inexpensive as one dollar per month. Perhaps even more attractive, it is possible to get six-month supplies of some medications through Amazon Pharmacy.
Does Amazon Pharmacy Make Sense for Me?
If you have even one prescription that needs to be filled on a regular basis, then Amazon Pharmacy could be a smart choice for you. Participants need to be at least 18 years of age to sign up, and it’s possible for a parent or other caregiver to handle prescriptions for children under the age of 18. The parent or caregiver creates a profile in the Amazon Pharmacy for themselves, then adds a child’s information via the dashboard.
If you haven’t used Amazon Pharmacy before and urgently need a medication, it’s wise to order it through your current pharmacy and transfer the prescription afterward.
One of the most attractive services offered by the Amazon Pharmacy is PillPack. Individuals who take multiple medications every day will love this service that sorts all medications into packets with the date and time at which they should be taken. This should make it much easier to remember to take the right pills at the right time.
How to Sign Up for Amazon Pharmacy
In fewer than five minutes, you could become an Amazon Pharmacy customer. Just navigate to the right page on Amazon, and answer a few questions about yourself and your health history. You’ll also need information about any medications that you’re currently taking and your insurance plan. Amazon Pharmacy can look up your insurance, but it also is possible to enter the account information manually. If you don’t have insurance, you can still use Amazon Pharmacy.
Currently, Amazon Pharmacy is able to deliver for all 50 states, so pretty much everyone is eligible to join.
It is possible to request a new prescription when you sign up for Amazon Pharmacy. Alternatively, new users can contact their prescriber to transfer their prescriptions. If you choose to do this, it’s essential that you provide certain information to your prescriber. This information may include the name of the pharmacy, Amazon Pharmacy #001, and the physical address, 4500 S. Pleasant Valley Road, Suite 201, Austin, Texas 78744-2911. The phone number for Amazon Pharmacy is 855-745-5725.
Why Is Amazon Offering Pharmacy Services?
Do you remember the good old days when Amazon really only sold books? Those times are long gone, as most people already know.
In addition to books, Amazon is the place to pick up new fashions, home décor, tools, athletic equipment and pretty nearly anything else that you can imagine.
Its offerings are so eclectic that most people find themselves browsing the options at Amazon at least once a day. In fact, it seems like it is Amazon’s goal to infiltrate every compartment of modern life.
So perhaps it’s not really a shock for Amazon to move into the healthcare sector. They’ve been offering COVID-19 testing as well as cloud-based services for healthcare and life sciences. The Halo Health and Wellness Tracker is Amazon’s answer to the FitBit and similar wearables. Amazon is even providing primary care services for its employees.
Amazon’s motivation is obvious. The healthcare sector is huge, and there is a great deal of money to be made there. Plus, the healthcare industry has numerous problems, and it seems clear that Amazon would like to try to resolve some of these issues.
Out of all of its healthcare initiatives, the Amazon Pharmacy is the program that is most closely aligned with the company’s e-commerce roots. Launched in November 2020, Amazon Pharmacy had its genesis in the company’s acquisition of PillPack in 2018.
TJ Parker, the former CEO of PillPack who is now the vice president in charge of the Amazon Pharmacy, notes that the company wanted to bring easy and convenient pharmacy services to a wider audience. The goal was to make using a pharmacy as smooth and reliable as ordering anything else from Amazon.
The retail giant is competing against not only traditional pharmacies but also big-box stores like Target and Walmart as well as companies that specialize in healthcare technology like GoodRx.
What Is it Like to Use Amazon Pharmacy?
If you are already a regular Amazon customer, then you’ll find that signing up for Amazon Pharmacy is quick and easy. You can use your existing Amazon account to connect yourself to the Amazon Pharmacy, which means that there is no need to re-enter your mailing address or billing information.
It’s also a plus that the pharmacy interface shares many similarities with many other Amazon experiences. This makes it familiar and streamlined. Users might appreciate that they likely won’t see any advertisements or promotions being offered, as these things don’t really fit in with pharmacy services.
Amazon seems to take prescription privacy fairly seriously. New users are asked to set up a unique PIN that will enable them to access pharmacy services. This thoughtful feature prevents other family members who may use the same Amazon account from accessing sensitive prescription data.
As you enter each of your prescriptions into the Amazon Pharmacy system, you’ll be presented with plain-language descriptions of each one. This may give you a greater understanding of any medications you’ve been prescribed, which is especially helpful with new medications.
Next, the Amazon Pharmacy will show you how much your medications will cost. These prices include the cost with your insurance or with a special discount for Prime members. This makes it possible to choose the lowest available price. Most of the time, the cheapest option will be through your insurance, but apparently some users have been surprised to find that certain prescriptions actually cost less through Prime.
After that, the Amazon team takes care of the rest. They will contact your doctor and your local pharmacy for approval so that your prescriptions can be filled or refilled and then shipped to your mailing address.
A Few Glitches in the System
Overall, Amazon Pharmacy seems to be a good idea, but some users have discovered a few bumps in the road. One new customer complained that the Amazon system initially couldn’t verify their insurance account. This necessitated a call to the insurance company to straighten out the issue.
Another customer noted that there may have been a communication error between Amazon and their doctor’s office because a duplicative refill request was sent to the customer’s old pharmacy about one week after the order was submitted to Amazon Pharmacy. In this case, the customer had to call their former pharmacy to cancel the second refill order.
Yet another customer reported that it took five days to receive their medication refill instead of the two days that is promised to all Prime members. A call to Amazon revealed that the company may have had an error in how Prime status was applied to the order.
Of course, nobody expects perfectly smooth sailing with a new service, and there seem to be fewer complaints with repeat Amazon Pharmacy users. Once the company gets some of the kinks out, things should become more reliable.
Will Amazon Change Drug Pricing in America?
One of the most frequent complaints about healthcare in America is the high cost of prescription drugs. Of course, Amazon is known for offering fantastic deals. Does that mean that you can get your prescriptions for less at Amazon than you can elsewhere?
That is a possibility, but it’s not necessarily something that you can count on. Amazon Pharmacy does helpfully provide upfront pricing so that you know exactly how much the medication will cost before you order it. That’s something that most other pharmacies do not offer.
Some industry experts say that with Amazon’s distribution structure and size, they may have the power to actually lower drug costs. This hasn’t happened so far, but it may be something to look forward to in the future.
This is because drug prices are secretive and complicated. Just because Amazon is selling a certain drug does not mean that it is necessarily going to have the best pricing.
When Amazon acquired PillPack, people who work as middlemen between insurance companies and patients voiced concerns about Amazon entering the prescription drug sector. These concerns were connected to the size of the company, its power and its potential ability to disrupt the control of the middlemen, thereby enabling Amazon to pressure drug manufacturers to lower their prices.
Despite these concerns, the prices of prescription drugs and the amount of money that Americans are spending on them continues to rise.
Others who work within the prescription drug market don’t believe that the retail company will be able to cause much disruption in drug pricing. In fact, these analysts say that Amazon could end up contributing to the problem of expensive drugs.
That is because Amazon Pharmacy has adopted the same model that relies on middlemen to provide prescription drug pricing. Unfortunately, the methods by which prices for medications are set is opaque and secretive, leading many insiders to believe that the prices for prescription drugs are needlessly inflated.
Some in the prescription drug industry are waiting to see if Amazon will look for new ways to cut deals with drug manufacturers that might do away with middlemen. With this kind of structure, it truly might be possible for Amazon to significantly lower drug prices.
At this point, we’ll simply have to wait to see if Amazon will look for a better way of doing business.
Should You Try Amazon Pharmacy?
Prescription drug pricing can be unpredictable, so it may be possible for you to save some money by ordering your medications through Amazon Pharmacy.
Signing up for Amazon Pharmacy requires only a few minutes of your time, and with upfront pricing, you’ll be able to immediately determine whether or not you’ll be able to save money versus continuing to use your existing pharmacy.
Plus, it’s definitely worth it to have your prescriptions delivered right to your door, a service that, admittedly, is offered by other pharmacies as well.
For die-hard Amazon enthusiasts, Amazon Pharmacy could be a money-saving and convenient alternative.
Now, if only Amazon would cut out the middlemen and start negotiating drug prices directly with manufacturers, that would be a major improvement in the healthcare landscape. Stay tuned to see if that innovation is on the horizon.