In its latest move to disrupt established markets, Amazon announced last week the launch of Amazon Pharmacy, its new online prescription fulfillment service.
Prime members and non-Prime Amazon shoppers alike now have the opportunity to save big on prescriptions when shopping with Amazon Pharmacy — and can order and receive their medications without ever having to get up off the couch.
So can Amazon Pharmacy actually help you save money on your prescriptions? Well, it depends.
How Amazon Pharmacy Works
Amazon Pharmacy is available in 45 states (sorry, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana and Montana) to both Prime and non-Prime members. Customers can transfer existing prescriptions over to the new online platform or ask doctors to call in prescriptions directly.
Amazon Pharmacy’s medications will include typical pills and creams, as well as refrigerated prescriptions like insulin. However, Amazon will not offer Schedule II controlled medications (i.e., opioids).
Here are some of Amazon Pharmacy’s features:
- Upfront price transparency: Amazon Pharmacy allows you to compare the price of the medication between multiple drug companies, and you can determine the cost of each prescription if paying with your insurance copay versus using Amazon Pharmacy’s discount card without insurance. This gives you far greater flexibility than you would get at a traditional pharmacy.
- Prescription savings card: Amazon Prime members can save up to 80% off generic prescriptions and 40% off brand-name medications when paying without insurance. Prime members can also collect these savings at 50,000 participating pharmacies across the country by using Amazon’s prescription savings card instead of paying with insurance. This card functions similarly to ones provided by prescription discount card providers like GoodRx and SingleCare, which offer patients significant discounts on prescriptions when they pay without insurance.
- Free two-day shipping for Prime Members: Amazon Pharmacy is most advantageous if you are a Prime member ($119 a year), as you will earn free two-day shipping. But even if you don’t have Prime, you can still purchase your prescriptions through Amazon Pharmacy. Free delivery takes five days, but you can spend $5.99 to expedite shipping.
- 24/7 customer service: Amazon offers online self-service as well as customer service over the phone with real pharmacists, 24/7.
Amazon does allow you to pay with insurance and accepts most major insurances. The price is likely to be comparable to what you would pay at CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid as your copay, according to Consumer Reports.
Amazon Pharmacy accepts all major credit and debit cards. Customers with an HSA or FSA can input their card information to make purchases as well.
Before You Order From Amazon Pharmacy…
With e-commerce usage at an all-time high, you may be considering leaving your traditional pharmacy in favor of ordering your prescription from your couch. However, Amazon Pharmacy may not always be the best choice.
As with any pharmacy, the surefire way to make sure you’re getting the best deal is to call around. Many pharmacies can also do price-matching if you find a cheaper prescription elsewhere, so if you have a preferred pharmacy, you still may be able to save just as much with them than you would with Amazon Pharmacy.
Don’t forget about GoodRx and SingleCare, which also offer discounts at brick-and-mortar pharmacies. These could get you similar — or even better — savings on specific prescriptions than you’d get with Amazon.
Most importantly, before opting to buy a prescription without insurance because of the savings, consider your deductible. If you are on a high-deductible health insurance plan and would like to potentially meet that deductible in a given year, note that any money you spend on prescriptions sans insurance will not apply to that deductible, thus making it less likely you will hit the annual requirement to increase insurance contributions to medical bills.
If, after these considerations, Amazon Pharmacy makes sense for you, you can begin ordering immediately. Amazon Pharmacy opened for business the day it was announced last week.
Timothy Moore is a market research editing and graphic design manager and a freelance writer covering topics on personal finance, travel, careers, education, pet care and automotive. He has worked in the field since 2012 with publications like Codetic, Debt.com, Ladders, WDW Magazine, Glassdoor and The News Wheel. He lives in Ohio with his fiance.