In a session on ecommerce and pharmacy, Amazon Pharmacy executives said they want to make the online pharmacy experience easy to navigate and pricing transparent.
The shift to online pharmacy is a golden opportunity to reorient pharmacy services so people can see prices and get medications conveniently, the panelists on a session ecommerce and pharmacy at the 2022 Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit agreed. And the Amazon Pharmacy executives on the panel referred several times to the importance of keeping the online experience simple for consumers.
But the upbeat session about ecommerce and pharmacy came a day after Department of Justice officials issued a press release announcing that PillPack had agreed to pay a $5.79 million penalty for overbilling Medicare and Medicaid for insulin. Amazon acquired PillPack for $750 million in 2018.
“Pharmacies are trusted to provide accurate information to government healthcare programs and to prevent waste when dispensing medications to patients,” Damian Willians, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a press release about the penalty. “PillPack abused this trust by dispensing insulin refills long before patients needed them and by falsely reporting the days-of-supply of insulin actually dispensed to prevent its claims for reimbursement from being denied.”
Axios has reported that T.J. Parker and Elliot Cohen, the cofounders of PillPack, were demoted to consultants for the company in December 2021 and that Neil Lindsay, former head of Amazon Prime, now oversees Amazon Pharmacy.
At the Asembia session, Laura Jensen, vice president of commercial markets, pharmacy, for Amazon Pharmacy, mentioned that she and a fellow panelist, Geoff Swindle, came to Amazon Pharmacy from PillPack. Swindle's Linkedin page says he is chief business officer for PillPack. At the Asembia session, he was identified as the chief business officer, pharmacy, for Amazon Pharmacy.
At the session, Swindle discussed the partnership that Amazon Pharmacy has Prime Therapeutics, a pharmacy benefit manager based in the Minneapolis area that manages pharmacy benefits for Blues plans. He said the company has developed a path for Prime members to easily onboard on to Amazon pharmacy and that the pharmacy is pulling in their medication histories and displaying pricing so it is clear what they will be paying out of pocket. Swindle said it “a very simple checkout process that we all expect in an ecommerce experience.”
Swindle noted that pricing transparency is central tenant at Amazon that Amazon Pharmacy is working on making pricing more transparent: “We are leaning in heavily into how to surface pricing to consumers further in the funnel.”
Jensen also invoked simplicity as central element to living up to a companywide philosophy that emphasizes customer needs.
“When we talk to our customers about what they are looking from us, they are really looking for us to create a pharmacy experience that is simple, that is easy for them to understand and that feels and looks like any other experience on Amazon,” said Jensen.
Jensen said buying medication online in an ecommerce fashion is “something we should be able to make relatively simple but is extremely hard to do. “
She added “if we can do that well and we can be sure to keep the patient at the center of that conversation then, ultimately, we are going to be able to build, essentially, a new channel for patients but also for the manufacturers who will have the opportunity to distribute, to promote, to deliver services in a unique and interesting way.”
Jensen said ecommerce also produces data that makes it possible to identify friction points and organize efforts to eliminate them.
Anthony Lawson, associate vice president for U.S. diabetes market access at Eli Lilly, spoke about his company’s efforts to solve problems for everyone “instead of solving for the average” that doesn’t consider individual circumstance,
“We have been asking patients for years — no, this is how healthcare is done, instead of understanding how they want health care delivered, how they want their medicine delivered , how they want interact with pharmacist. We have been talking about how to do that, now we have the opportunity to do that because the technology exists and the infrastructure exists,” said Lawson.
Rob Truckenmiller, head of U.S. market access, GlaxoSmithKline, also talked about taking a approach to healthcare is flexible and fits with individual patient needs. He also discussed patients seeking out information on their own and “trying to align to fit into where patients are already finding information. “
“Patients,” said Truckenmiller, “are no longer passengers in healthcare.”