Amazon Pharmacy rolls out insulin discount coupons

Amazon Pharmacy

Amazon Pharmacy has said that it will automatically apply manufacturer coupons on over 15 insulin and diabetes care products from manufacturers like Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Dexcom, and Insulet, making it easier for patients to claim discounts.

The company said that the automatic coupons will make many brands available to patients from $35 per month, delivered free to their homes, and spare patients the effort of trying to find and redeem coupons themselves.

In a blog post, Amazon said that 85% of manufacturer-sponsored coupons go unused, citing data published (PDF) in 2020 by the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission.

It's the latest move in the online retail giant's move into the healthcare market, coming after the launch of its RxPass service earlier this year, which promises to provide cheap generic prescription drugs to US Amazon Prime members for $5 per month on top of their regular membership fee.

It also comes as insulin has become a focal point of the debate over medicine pricing in the US, with the government passing a law last year to cap monthly out-of-pocket expenses for the drugs at $35 for older people in the federal Medicare health insurance programme.

Since then, insulin producer Eli Lilly matched the $35 price cap for people with private health insurance, with a pledge to reduce the list price of two of its most commonly prescribed insulins, Humalog and Humulin, by 70% by the end of this year. Novo Nordisk and Sanofi subsequently followed suit with their own price reductions and out-of-pocket caps.

A report published by the office of US Senator Elizabeth Warren last month suggested that, despite the measures, uninsured patients are still being charged an average of almost $100 for Lilly's authorised generic version of Humalog – which is supposed to be available at $25 per vial – and almost half (43%) of pharmacies did not have it in stock.

The report concluded that patients "must unravel a confusing thicket of coupons, competing generic drugs, and misleading information to get their insulin."

Amazon's initiative covers most of the commonly prescribed insulins, as well as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

According to the American Diabetes Association, around 8.4 million of the 37 million people in the US with diabetes use insulin.

The ADA's chief executive, Charles Henderson, applauded Amazon's move, saying the company was "innovating on behalf of patients and taking the important action to help ensure people living with diabetes can easily access the treatments they need."

In another example of the disruption taking place in the US medicines supply chain, health insurer Blue Shield of California has said that it intends to drop CVS as its main pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) and replace it with multiple alternative suppliers aiming to take cost out of the system.

Those include Amazon Pharmacy, as well as the Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company, which launched in 2022 with a pledge to eliminate middlemen mark-ups on off-patent drugs and pass savings on to customers. Blue Shield has estimated that it could save $500 million a year as a result.