Prime Therapeutics taps Amazon for home deliveryOctober 14, 2021
by Carrie Pallardy
As published in AIS’s Radar on Drug Benefits
(Content reprinted with permission. Original article available on AIS’s website, available by subscription only.)
Prime Therapeutics LLC is launching a new kind of shopping experience for members of participating Blue Cross Blue Shield plans called MedsYourWay, and its first offering includes a home delivery option through Amazon Pharmacy.
Through the Amazon Pharmacy partnership, MedsYourWay gives consumers “simplified sign-up, real-time medication price displays and an integrated MedsYourWay prescription discount card administered by Inside Rx,” according to a press release.
“The first interaction is often the toughest when you are going into these digital experiences,” Mark Renze, vice president of strategic partnerships with Prime Therapeutics, tells AIS Health, a division of MMIT. Prime Therapeutics is aiming to change that through the Amazon Pharmacy partnership, which offers consumers a familiar shopping experience paired with Amazon’s delivery guarantee.
Additionally, the real-time price display allows consumers to see the cost of medication either through their insurance or through their MedsYourWay drug discount card. “Depending on the plan, both pricing options for the covered medications can accrue or count towards members’ out-of-pocket maximum,” explains Renze.
Prime Therapeutics is taking a “channel agnostic approach” when it comes to home delivery, according to Marci Conlin, the firm’s vice president of pharmacy network management. “If you think about the way traditional PBMs have delivered home delivery, it is focused on their owned assets,” she says.
Deal Builds on 2020 Pilot With Amazon
The company tested the waters with Amazon Pharmacy back in 2020, conducting a pilot with one of the Blues plans that co-own Prime. The technology and positive member experience during the pilot led to the broader relationship between Prime Therapeutics and Amazon Pharmacy that supports the MedsYourWay offering.
While the MedsYourWay initiative is new, Amazon Pharmacy has previously made pharmacy benefit management-related moves. The e-commerce giant is partnered with one of the largest PBMs through Cigna Corp.’s Evernorth division. And other players are looking for ways to innovate in the PBM space as well.
In addition, Humana and Anthem are working together to launch DomaniRx, a venture designed to be an innovative PBM. “You’re starting to see the blurring of the lines between the health plan and the PBM and now you’ve got online retailers,” says Ashraf Shehata, national sector leader for health care and life sciences at KPMG.
More and more players are finding ways to partner up. Commercial payers and PBMs have existing ecosystems, and partnerships with online retailers like Amazon open the door to new technology and consumer innovation. “I think it reinforces the position that everyone needs to work together to be successful these days,” Shehata says.
Partnerships like the one between Prime Therapeutics and Amazon Pharmacy push players in the PBM space to compete. “Anytime you start to offer consumer choice, it definitely moves the whole industry forward. Look at all of the other facets of our lives, whether it is banking or financial services or consumer retail,” Shehata says. “The traditional incumbents do better when there is more competition, more innovation.”
Will Other PBMs Also Strike Deals?
Conlin points out other PBMs may try to compete by creating differentiation within their current assets. Plus, Amazon Pharmacy is likely to consider relationships with other entities, broadening consumer access to its offerings and delivery model. “We can’t speak to other PBMs. It really comes down to how they view their own internal assets,” she says.
“We talk a lot about the pharmacy business, the payer sector and how they come together. I think the one thing that is still on the table to be improved or revolutionized is the provider side of the house,” Shehata says.
Consumer expectations are going to be shaped by the services offered by Prime Therapeutics and the other PBMs looking to innovate. As options like simple home delivery and transparent price comparison become commonplace on the pharmacy side of the business, Shehata expects that consumers will begin to wonder about the rest of their medical benefits. “That might actually help advance digital thinking in the health plan industry,” he says.
Pharmacy benefits are becoming more ingrained into the total health benefit. Partnerships between different players are further blurring those lines. “Innovation might start with the pharmacy side, but I think the consumer expectation is that it will affect both the pharmacy and the medical,” Shehata says.
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