Amazon launches a subscription prescription drug service

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. prescription drug / prɪˈskrɪp ʃən drʌg / (n.) – a drug that can only be bought with written instruction from a doctor

    Pharmacists are the only people allowed to sell prescription drugs.

  2. flat fee / flæt fi / (n.) – a payment that does not change despite any change in the amount used, bought, etc.

    Whether your stop is 2 km or 5 km away, you will still pay the bus’s flat fee of $5.

  3. antibiotic / ˌæn tɪ baɪˈɒt ɪk / (n.) – a kind of drug used to treat infection caused by bacteria

    The doctor gave me antibiotics for my throat infection.

  4. shutter / ˈʃʌt ər / (v.) – to close down a business or activity

    The local government shuttered the small restaurant because of health and safety problems.

  5. traction / ˈtræk ʃən / (n.) – support or interest that is needed for something to succeed

    The restaurant’s new product became the latest best-seller after gaining a lot of traction.


Read the text below.

Amazon is adding a prescription drug discount program to its growing health care business.

The retail giant said that it will launch RxPass, a subscription service for customers who have Prime memberships. Amazon said people will pay $5 a month to fill as many prescriptions as they need from a list of about 50 generic medications, which are generally cheaper versions of brand-name drugs.

The company said the flat fee could cover a list of medications like the antibiotic amoxicillin and the anti-inflammatory drug naproxen.

Amazon sells a range of generic drugs through its pharmacy service. Some already cost as little as $1 for a 30-day supply, so the benefit of this new program will vary by customer.

The program doesn’t use insurance, and people with government-funded Medicaid or Medicare coverage are not eligible. It will be available in 42 states and Washington, D.C. at launch.

Any program that gets low-cost generic drugs to more patients “is a good thing,” said Karen Van Nuys, an economist who studies drug pricing at the University of Southern California. But she added that she wasn’t sure how much of an impact RxPass will have.

She noted that the program is limited to Amazon Prime customers. Other options like the Mark Cuban CostPlus Drug Co. sell more generic drugs, many for under $5.

“I just don’t know that it’s expanding access to a new set of patients,” Van Nuys said.

Still, the move could help the company take up some more space in the health care market, even though it has not always been successful in its aim. Last year, the company shuttered its hybrid virtual, in-home care service called Amazon Care after it failed to get traction from employers.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Under the RxPass, people will pay $5 a month to fill as many prescriptions as they need from a list of about 50 generic medications. Do you think your country needs this kind of service? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What other services or improvements would you like an online pharmacy service to have (ex. online prescription consultation, same-day delivery)? Why? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Karen Van Nuys said any program that gets low-cost generic drugs to more patients “is a good thing.” Why is better and cheaper access to medicine important? Is it easy to get important medicines in your country? Discuss.
  • Do people generally trust generic medicines in your country? Why do you think this is so? Discuss.