In today’s world, almost anything you could possibly want can be delivered to your doorstep. From clothes to groceries to cars, companies are offering on-demand services that help bring consumers one step closer to being able to order all of the things they need from the comfort of their home. In healthcare, we’ve seen telehealth services offer virtual doctor’s appointments right from a smartphone. But now, online Rx startups are offering even more convenience – ditching an appointment with a doctor altogether to provide generic prescription drugs straight to your doorstep.

So, how do these services work? Taking a look at popular startups, Hims and Hers, the companies employ viral marketing tactics and eye-catching packaging to attract consumers to their websites. Banking on the ability to self-diagnose, the companies allow consumers to choose their own medication and then sends their request to a doctor for approval. While telemedicine laws vary by state, in many cases physicians are able to write a prescription after simply reviewing stored responses from online surveys and questionnaires – no face to face or virtual consultation required. But with convenience comes rising concerns regarding the quality of health these online prescription drug startups are offering. Some professionals are speaking out about the potential risks.

“There are both opportunities to improve access to care, but also risks to patients, and I think regulators are having to address that,” said Lisa Robin, an executive with the Federation of State Medical Boards.

The group has been urging U.S. physicians to steer clear of working for these companies, cautioning them to consider their professional and ethical duties before making a decision.  Others are entering the debate, adding that on-demand services like these undermine the role of health professionals in carefully diagnosing and treating health concerns.

“These are lifestyle drugs, and they have potentially serious adverse effects, and this seems like too casual a way to be obtaining them,” said Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a professor at Georgetown University.

Why This Matters – 

For those in areas without easy access to healthcare, sites like these may seem appealing. Especially considering that some reports have suggested that there’s an increasing shortage of physicians in both primary and specialty care. However, the prices of these prescription drugs may leave consumers feeling disappointed about the potential for these services to be considered a true alternative to physical care. In one example, Hims sells the generic version of the hair loss drug Propecia at $28.50 for a month’s supply, in contrast to $11 at major pharmacy chains like Walmart or CVS.

While the company argues that their increased price is worth the value of not having to make a trip to the doctor’s office and pharmacy to receive a prescription, many will find that these sites still don’t address the underlying problem that basic healthcare is still not as accessible and affordable as it should be for many Americans in need.

About the Author:

Khye Tucker is an Innovation Strategist in Columbus, OH. With a passion for writing and a background in communications, Khye strives to bring brand stories to life through a fresh perspective, innovative thinking and creative storytelling.