Walmart and rival Amazon are squaring off in the pharmacy arena by using their customer benefit programs to serve up prescription drug savings.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart late Monday unveiled Walmart+ Rx for less, a drug discount plan for customers enrolled in its nine-month-old Walmart+ membership program, aimed at competing with Amazon Prime.
And on Tuesday, Amazon Pharmacy began offering a six-month supply of selected prescription medicines for as low as $6 for Prime members. The maintenance medication offer, first reported by Bloomberg, goes up against Walmart’s 15-year-old $4 generic drug program, which proved to be a game-changer in the retail pharmacy market.
Both the Walmart and Amazon drug savings benefits target uninsured and underinsured customers who pay cash for prescriptions, as well as pharmacy patients with drug coverage who are willing to pay outside their insurance plan.
Amazon Pharmacy customers who are Prime members can get maintenance prescriptions for as low as $1 monthly if they order a six-month supply. (Image courtesy of Amazon)
Under Walmart+ Rx for less, members of Walmart+ can access exclusive savings on thousands of commonly prescribed medications covering a range of health needs, including heart health, mental health, antibiotics, allergies and diabetes management. Walmart said the savings averages 65% but can climb up to 85%, and some medications are available free.
“With Walmart+ Rx for less, we’re providing incredible value to Walmart+ members on the prescriptions they rely on most,” Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president of Walmart U.S. Health and Wellness, said in a statement. “When you consider the frequency with which many prescriptions are filled, the importance of medication adherence and the ease of multiple fulfilment options, we can make it easier for someone to manage their medical conditions. As a company, we’re on a journey to make health care more accessible and affordable with our pharmacists providing their clinical expertise to our customers.”
Walmart+ members access Rx for less savings as follows: First, they search eligible prescription medicines available at Walmart’s 4,000-plus pharmacies. Next, they receive a digital pharmacy savings card in their Walmart+ account, accessed via the Walmart mobile app or website. To get the savings, they share the information on the digital card with the pharmacist the next time they fill a prescription. New Walmart+ members must wait until their free trial period lapses to access the drug savings.
Walmart+ member discounts can also be applied to e-prescriptions provided from a prescriber and transferred to a Walmart pharmacy, Walmart said. The prescription savings program — including medications such as cephalexin (antibiotic), metformin (for type 2 diabetes) and lisinopril (for high blood pressure) — is administered by MedImpact, a pharmacy benefit manager and drug discount provider. Walmart+ Rx for less isn’t available in all states.
Walmart is positioning Walmart+ Rx for less as another benefit of a Walmart+ membership, along with unlimited free delivery from stores, no shipping minimums for online orders, Mobile Scan & Go and fuel discounts. Walmart+ was launched in mid-September 2020.
“We’re designing Walmart+ to be the ultimate life hack for our customers. It’s been our commitment from the beginning to continue to grow the suite of benefits we offer Walmart+ members,” stated Janey Whiteside, executive vice president and chief customer officer at Walmart U.S. “We know we can use our size and scale to help simplify things for our customers in a way only we can.”
Amazon didn’t formally announce the six-month prescriptions for $6 program but posted it on the Amazon Pharmacy website as a new benefit for Prime members.
Selected generic drugs for such conditions as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, anxiety, depression and hyperthyroidism are available for as low as $1 per month from Amazon Pharmacy if members of Prime order a six-month regimen, Seattle-based Amazon said. Prime also offers an Rx discount card that can provide members up to 80% savings at over 60,000 pharmacies if they don’t use insurance, according to the company.
Amazon Pharmacy’s six-month program is aimed at users of maintenance medications — who typically order supplies of 90 days or more — who are uninsured or underinsured, who would prefer to pay cash, or who are disenchanted with high drug plan co-payments and are willing to go outside their insurance. Besides online ordering and refills of prescriptions, Prime members using Amazon Pharmacy get unlimited, free two-day delivery of their prescriptions and can see the Prime savings to compare pricing when searching online for medications.
Amazon made its formal entry into the pharmacy market last November with the launch of Amazon Pharmacy. The online store enables customers to complete an entire pharmacy transaction on their computer or via the Amazon App on a mobile device. Besides up to 80% savings for generic drugs, Prime members can get 40% off brand-name medications and fill scripts at tens of thousands of brick-and-mortar pharmacies.
Industry buzz about Amazon jumping into the retail pharmacy business had heated up after its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods Market. Then 2018, Amazon’s acquisition of online pharmacy PillPack seemed to confirm other behind-the-scenes moves that the company was building a pharmacy operation.