Amazon has just rolled out a new online pharmacy to help customers take care of all of their prescription needs.
According to a press release by the retail giant, Amazon Pharmacy customers can complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their desktop or mobile device through the Amazon App. Customers will create a pharmacy profile, where they can add insurance information, manage prescriptions, and choose payment options before checking out.
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The entry into the pharmacy industry comes in an effort to compete with brick and mortar pharmacy retailers like CVS, Walgreens, RiteAid, and the recently public GoodRx, whose stocks fell sharply on the announcement.
Below is what you need to know about Amazon's new pharmacy business and how it compares to other competitors:
Amazon Pharmacy gives customers who are 18 years or older wide transparency on medication information, including what the branded and generic versions of a prescription are as well as the different forms or dosage amounts that can be prescribed.
Customers can order prescription medications for home delivery by simply asking their licensed health care provider to send new or existing prescriptions directly to Amazon Pharmacy for fulfilment. Orders are then delivered in discreet packaging to the customer’s preferred address. Amazon Pharmacy does not deliver Schedule II controlled medications, which include most opioids.
For patients with chronic conditions, Amazon Pharmacy's free PillPack service delivers creams, pills, eye drops, inhalers and medications that need to stay cold, like insulin, on an automatic 30-day refill schedule.
PillPack, which was acquired by Amazon in 2018, is an in-network pharmacy for a majority of Medicare Part D plans and Medicaid programs in New Hampshire, Ohio, and Texas. PillPack does not support Medicare Part B. It is also an in-netowrk pharmacy with all major pharmacy benefit managers, including CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, Optum Rx, Prime Therapeutics, Humana Pharmacy Solutions, Cigna, Aetna, MedImpact, EnvisionRx, and CastiaRx.
Prime members receive unlimited, free two-day delivery on orders from Amazon Pharmacy included with their membership. The new prescription savings benefit card gives Prime members discounts of up to 80% off on generic prescription medications and 40% off brand name medications at over 50,000 participating pharmacies nationwide, including Amazon Pharmacy and the PillPack by Amazon Pharmacy service and in-store pharmacies like CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.
Before checking out, the online store will also compare a customer's insurance co-pay, price without insurance, or the available savings under the Prime prescription savings benefit to choose the lowest available price option. Health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts can also be used to pay for prescriptions.
In addition, Amazon Pharmacy offers online self-service help options as well as 24/7 phone access to pharmacists who will answer any questions about medications at 855-745-5725. Amazon notes that patients' health information, including medication history, medical conditions, and health insurance information is protected under The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which requires that protected health information is not shared outside of the pharmacy for advertising or marketing purposes without clear permission from the customer.
Amazon Pharmacy is available in 45 states, with the exception of Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Minnesota, and it is accepted by most insurance plans.
Walgreens said in a statement to FOX Business that it already provides "a full and growing range of pharmacy health and wellness solutions to our customers and patients" including customized, free same-day and next-day delivery options and specialized support for chronic, complex conditions, medication therapy management and vaccinations.
Customers can use the pharmacy's digital and online services through the Walgreens App, including a live Pharmacy Chat service to speak with Walgreens' network of more than 25,000 pharmacists nationwide and the Walgreens Find Care platform to provide customers with personalized care and connect them with extensive health resources. In addition, Walgreens offers savings through its Prescription Savings Club and loyalty program with more than 100 million customers.
CVS Health spokesperson TJ Crawford told FOX Business that Amazon's entrance into the highly competitive pharmacy market "come as no surprise to us" and that while its pharmacy is a core component of its business, it is "more than your corner drug store."
“The diversified and integrated model we’ve built allows us to meet people where they are, whether that’s in the community, in the home or in the palm of their hand," Crawford added. "We’re the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the world and provide our pharmacy customers with a wealth of clinical and other support services to improve their health."
Those services include approximately 1,100 MinuteClinic convenient care clinics, which offer diagnosis and treament for a variety of minor illnesses and injuries, including bronchitis, flu, strep throat, bladder infections, minor burns and cuts, insect stings, and more. MinuteClinics also offer health screenings and monitoring, vaccinations and injections, and health and wellness offerings include camp and sports physicals, help with smoking cessation, and weight loss programs.
In addition, CVS has 90 Coram infusion locations nationwide, including more than 70 ambulatory infusion suites and 5 CVS Pharmacy locations, which offer high-quality infusion therapy services to more than 205,000 patients per year. Coram also offers home-based infusion therapy, which offers a discount of $1,928 to $2,974 compared to infusion services in hospitals or doctors’ offices, according to a study from the CVS Health Research Institute.
CVS Health also offers Omnicare specialized long-term care pharmacy services, which deliver more than 70 million prescriptions a year to seniors nationwide and provide both seniors and their families guidance and resources from the company's health professionals.
Representatives for GoodRx and RiteAid did not immediately return FOX Business' requests for comment on Amazon's announcement.