Lupin 2023

Amazon Rx adds new coupon tool

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Patients can now automatically receive coupon savings on eligible medication purchases.

NEW YORK — Amazon has put another building block in place as it works to bring the experience of pharmacy customers fully into the digital era. This morning the company unveiled a feature on the Amazon Pharmacy website that automatically applies coupons offered by a select group of brand-name drug makers to the orders of eligible patients. The new tool promises to save a considerable amount of time and money for prescription drug users, many of whom are unaware that such discount programs exist.

“What we’ve done is effectively create our own coupon offering that is funded by pharmaceutical manufacturers where, essentially on Amazon Pharmacy, they can apply their coupon rules within the user experience, just like any other Amazon coupon experience,” says Laura Jensen, head of manufacturer and prescriber business development at the e-commerce company. “We think this is really interesting for a few reasons.

“The first is that there’s no universal storefront for how patients access these coupons, which means that they are broadly underutilized. In fact, we recently saw a statistic that only around 15% of the time were eligible patients using these coupons. Not only that, but they’re also not discoverable. So, even when a patient knows that they have access to coupons, they don’t necessarily know what that means for them until they get to the pharmacy counter.”

The new Amazon service will address those issues, matching eligible patients with relevant discounts at the time they order their prescriptions. For the launch of the program, the company has teamed with several branded drug makers, including GlaxoSmithKline, Kaleo, Novo Nordisk and Dexcom, to target such common disease states as asthma, emphysema, obesity and diabetes.

“The medications involved are relevant to conditions for which there is significant unmet need,” explains Dr. Vin Gupta, a practicing pulmonologist who has been chief medical officer at Amazon Pharmacy for the past four years, citing such well-known branded drugs as Trelegy and Wegovy, AUVI-Q epinephrine pens, and G6 and G7 sensors and transmitters for glucose monitoring. “We’re trying to build awareness now as we’re scaling this offering. When I prescribe inhalers in a pulmonary clinic, information asymmetries are rampant, not just when it comes to coupons, but across so many different tools in health care. Tools exist. Do patients know about them? Can they leverage them?

“When it comes to coupons to make critical medications cheaper, it is just intolerable, it’s unacceptable that we’ve accepted this reality for so long — that there’s something out there that can make a medication cheaper, that could really benefit a patient, but they don’t know about it. The information they get might be variable. We’re trying to rectify that with this offering.”

Jensen, who worked in the pharmaceutical industry and at PillPack before it was acquired by Amazon five years ago, says the new coupon program will benefit health care providers as well as patients: “These are higher-priced products, and physicians are well aware of generic alternatives. So if they’re reaching for these products it’s for a very good reason. To make patients jump through hoops at that point is really not something that we wanted to do. One of our values at Amazon Pharmacy is we want to uphold the integrity of the conversation that a patient is having with their prescriber; we want to facilitate that interaction.”

The coupon initiative — which Jensen indicates will be expanded during the course of the year, with special emphasis on such therapeutic categories as cardiometabolic, diabetes, obesity and respiratory — is only the latest manifestation of Amazon’s commitment to reengineering the pharmacy business.

“It is the one part of the patient journey that has not been, frankly, reinvented in decades,” Gupta comments. “It’s the same experience largely that has existed for the last five decades-plus — which is the motivating principle behind why Amazon Pharmacy exists. We think that we can do it better.

“One example is coupons; this is not something that folks should have to search for, especially if they’re sick. Now we’re rectifying that. And this is just one of a series of offerings that we’ve recently launched. With RxPass, for $5 a month on top of an Amazon Prime membership, a user can get access to over 50 medications that are applicable to over 80 common chronic conditions. We’ve seen overwhelmingly positive uptake and responses to that offering. Our Prime prescription savings benefit provides discounts of up to 80% off generics and 40% off brand-name medications.”

Gupta says that Amazon Pharmacy’s objective is to drive disproportionate value as part of the broader health care ecosystem that the company is constructing. Melding Amazon’s strengths in technology and logistics with the practice of evidence-based medicine will produce multiple benefits, beginning with reliable information for patients and providers.

“At the end of the day, one of the things we do is deliver price transparency,” he notes. “Patients will know what they’re going to pay at the point of purchase, and their provider will as well. As a physician, that’s incredibly helpful, especially when we talk about the medications that are part of this offering. It enables you to have meaningful discussions about options and affordabilities, and you can pivot in real time if needed.”


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