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Zepbound is now being sold on Amazon. Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
  • Eli Lilly, the maker of obesity medication Zepbound and diabetes drug Mounjaro, has partnered with Amazon Pharmacy to dispense their medications.
  • The partnership is an outgrowth of Eli Lilly’s LillyDirect service, which they launched in January.
  • Experts say the move is unlikely to dramatically improve accessibility for many patients due to constraints around drug costs.

Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company behind tirzepatide, a drug sold under the brand names Mounjaro and Zepbound, has now partnered with Amazon Pharmacy.

The move is being touted as a way for the company to expand access to its drugs through online pharmacists and expedite deliveries directly to patients’ homes.

“To help patients being treated for diabetes, obesity, and migraine, Amazon Pharmacy is now offering home delivery of select medications through LillyDirect. Lilly has selected Amazon Pharmacy to serve as a third-party dispensing provider for LillyDirect Pharmacy Solutions, delivering prescribed Lilly medications directly to a patient’s home,” Amazon said in a press release.

The partnership is also a further indication of Lilly’s strategy to make inroads into the direct-to-consumer world of telehealth and pharmacy options. In January 2024, Eli Lilly announced the launch of LillyDirect, an “end-to-end” online healthcare experience for individuals with obesity, migraine, and diabetes.

Despite the move, experts who spoke to Healthline said that costs for many of these drugs remain prohibitively expensive, which they viewed as a more significant barrier to access.

“Overall, anything that can help improve patients’ access to these medications is a positive, as long as it doesn’t circumvent having physician and provider support to manage the drug,” said Dr. Dan Azagury, MD, section chief of Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery and medical director for the Bariatric and Metabolic Interdisciplinary Clinic at Stanford Health.

“However,” he said. I don’t think this move is really targeting the real barriers to access. At this time, the two biggest barriers are insurance not reimbursing the medication and creating all sorts of barriers in terms of opaque pre-authorizations and shortages of the drug itself.”

Following the approval of Zepbound for obesity in November 2023, Eli Lilly launched LillyDirect just two months later.

“With LillyDirect, our goal is to relieve some of those burdens by simplifying the patient experience to help improve outcomes. LillyDirect offers more choices in how and where people access healthcare, including a convenient home delivery option to fill Lilly medicines they have been prescribed,” David A. Ricks, Eli Lilly’s chair and CEO, said in a press release.

LillyDirect offers various services, including access to online pharmacies, manufacturers’ savings on medicines, tools to find healthcare providers, and free shipping on medications.

A representative for Eli Lilly told Healthline that since the launch of LillyDirect, the company has continued to build a dispensing network for its drugs, recently adding Amazon Pharmacy as a third-party provider.

“Lilly selects third-party dispensing providers for their ability to simplify and improve the pharmacy experience, their commitment to patient safety and customer service, and their experience developing tech-enabled solutions,” the Lilly rep told Healthline in an emailed statement.

Eli Lilly’s strategy appears, at least in part, to be a response to accessibility issues around novel obesity medications like Zepbound.

Glucagon-like peptide receptor agonists, so-called GLP-1 RAs, are a class of drugs that includes obesity medications like Zepbound, Wegovy, and the diabetes medication Ozempic.

The drugs work by simulating a hormone in the gut that slows digestion and increases the feeling of satiety or fullness in the brain. Due to the mechanism, the drugs have proved to be effective both as diabetes and obesity medications.

Both effective and popular, GLP-1 RAs are prohibitively expensive for many Americans. Without insurance, they can cost thousands of dollars per month, and many insurance plans don’t cover them.

Besides cost, the popularity of the drugs has led to numerous supply chain issues, resulting in widespread shortages.

While Eli Lilly’s partnership may address some of those supply chain issues, it still doesn’t address cost.

“It doesn’t affect the obstacles and lack of access,” said Dr. Caroline Apovian, MD, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“Only 20-30% of private insurers are covering these agents, no Medicare, and very few Medicaid…The big picture is that this isn’t going to help access affordable agents that save lives,” she told Healthline.

Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company behind Mounjaro and Zepbound, has partnered with Amazon Health to expand online access to its drugs.

The move is part of the company’s strategy of making its medications directly available to consumers through its LillyDirect service, which it launched in January.

Eli Lilly told Healthline that they partner with dispensing pharmacies to increase consumers’ options in how and where they get their medication.

Experts say that barriers to access, primarily cost and lack of insurance coverage, are still prohibitive for Mounjaro, Zepbound, and similar drugs.