Despite having slashed the list prices of the generic version of their insulin to just $25 earlier this year, pharmacies often charge uninsured insulin-requiring patients more — sometimes hundreds more — for the life-sustaining medication, writes Reuters. Amazon Pharmacy aims to help with that by automatically applying coupons to prescriptions ordered through the service.
Amazon’s digital pharmacy presents the coupons basically the same way you see them when ordering from the ordinary Amazon store — after you’ve found your medication on the site, it will show its pricing both with and without insurance. Below that, a banner shows how much you’ll save “with coupon if eligible.” Once you’re logged in, Amazon also shows who makes the coupon, as in the screenshot below.
For an idea of what you can expect, I searched for Lispro, drugmaker Eli Lilly’s generic insulin listed at $25 (meaning pharmacies can charge more if they want to). Amazon estimated a 28-day supply of a 100 unit / ml injectable dose at $4 for insured patients — a figure it bases on other insured Amazon Pharmacy customers’ insurance claims — while it charged $56.40 for the patients who were uninsured. The price dropped to just $35 after I logged in to Amazon Pharmacy. All three figures included a $21.40 coupon from Eli Lilly.
The manufacturer medication coupons aren’t available to those benefiting from any state or federal healthcare program — Medicaid, for instance — nor can you use it if you’re part of a state patient or pharmaceutical assistance program.
“We applaud Amazon Pharmacy for innovating on behalf of patients,” said Charles Henderson, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, calling this an “important action to help ensure people living with diabetes can easily access the treatments.”
Last month, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) issued a report saying existing coupon programs are hard to use and that many patients aren’t benefiting from them. In fact, according to Warren’s report, the “vast majority of pharmacists, when called, did not suggest the use of this coupon.” So patients usually have to first know about them and, second, go through one of two separate systems — one for insured patients and one for those without insurance — to actually get them.