11 Startups Delivering Prescription Drugs and More (Legally)
The drugstore is full of frustrations. You wait online for a prescription they’ve run out of. You always seem to need a new script from your doctor.
Then there’s the vitamin aisle that’s packed full of mysterious potions that go in and out of favor with the medical community.
The drugstore doesn’t have to be an awful errand. It doesn’t even have to be an errand at all, or so say a handful of startups that are tackling the burdens of pills and prescriptions and delivering them to your door.
These companies are taking the insights gleaned by direct-to-consumers companies, like Harry’s and Warby Parker, and bringing them to the rather complicated world of medications and supplements.
Fact: Drugs work better when you remember to take them, preferably at the prescribed day and time. But “many people would rather do laundry or take out the trash than take medications prescribed to them,” said Matt Blum, the CEO and co-founder of Circadian Design, in a release.
Blum, who previously worked at Apple in Mac product design, creates products that help people consistently take prescriptions. Circadian’s Round app tracks medication and sets schedules and doses, and the company’s bottle communicates with the app via Bluetooth and tracks prescription intake. The Round bottle costs $10 a month.
Pillpack has come up with a less high-tech but certainly practical solution to ensure patients take their meds when they’re supposed to. You or your doctor send over your prescriptions, and you’re shipped a box of dose packets – small plastic bags with the medication name, along with when to take them. Pillpack is a licensed pharmacy in 49 states (sorry, Hawaii), and its service costs $20 per month.
Women’s Health Prescribers
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: women’s health is big business, and startups have ignored it for way too long. That’s starting to change.
Nurx is helping women get birth control without going to a doctor’s office. Using the Nurx app, women answer a handful of health-related questions and a doctor hired by the company reviews the information and sends a prescription to a partner pharmacy. Delivery is included. Nurx also prescribes HIV prevention medication. For now, Nurx is available in a handful of states, but they’ve got expansion plans.
Requesting a prescription for birth control, or antibiotics for a urinary tract infection can be done without an in-person doctor visit using Lemonaid. Users answer a few medical questions, pay $15 for a “visit”, and may receive some follow-up questions from a doctor before receiving the prescription. Lemonaid also helps with prescriptions for erectile dysfunction.
If you have a few questions about your meds, Maven, a startup aiming to make healthcare easy for all women, can help. Users can choose a Maven practitioner to video conference with. Ten-minute sessions with a nurse practitioner or midwife will set you back $18, less than many co-pays. Providers recommend a medication on the spot and order it to be sent to a pharmacy. The most requested prescriptions are for birth control, Maven told Buzzfeed.
A vitamin pack a day might keep the doctor away, and these startups want to make taking over the counter meds easy too. At Care/of, users answer a five-minute questionnaire to determine their personalized selection of pills, which are delivered in daily packets. Care/of includes guidance and research backing their recommendations. The company has started with about 30 vitamins and supplements including Rhodiola rosea, a supplement gaining popularity in Silicon Valley for its perceived ability to boost energy levels.
The advantage of an online direct-to-consumer model is that we can remove a lot of costs that consumers often don’t even know are present,” Care/of cofounder Craig Elbert told us. “Brands pay for shelving in retailers. Mark-ups are applied multiple times in the value chain. Real estate across the country is expensive. It is also expensive to hold inventory across so many locations. Our model allows us to cut those costs and re-invest in the product.”
If you or your kids have trouble swallowing pills or just miss the flavors of the Flintstone varieties, VitaFive offers custom gummy vitamin packs for each member of the family.
Ritual believes it’s created the perfect pill that contains a majoirty of the ingredients women are missing from their diets. Rather than dozens of ingredients, Ritual focuses on nine. This multivitamin and all multivitamins for that matter are not without skeptics, but Ritual prides itself on its transparency–the company lists where each ingredient is sourced and why it’s included, and the pills are also clear, literally.
Prescription for delivery
Now that you’ve got your prescriptions, how can you order them from the couch and get them delivered quickly? In New York City, Capsule will deliver your prescriptions within two hours. “Instead of spending millions on corner stores to sell candy and toilet paper, we’ve invested in technology, experience, and care,” the company wrote in a release. That technology includes predictive inventory management to ensure prescriptions are available when needed.
ZipDrug offers a similar service for parts of New York City and New Jersey.
In the Bay Area, consumers can get their medications sorted into pre-labeled packages, much like what Pillpack offers, and delivered in the same day through ScriptDash.
Like many startups in the delivery space, prescriptions deliveries seem to be tricky to monetize, and we’ve lost one already. TinyRx, a San Francisco-based startup that offered similar delivery services to Capsule, ZipDrug, and ScriptDash, ceased operations in May after receiving over $7 million in funding. So we say, keep a copy of your prescription just in case you need to switch services.
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