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The hidden cost of telehealth startups

Birth control pills in multicolors in a stack.
Photo: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

Telehealth startup Hims, a direct-to-consumer brand meant to provide solutions for men to erectile dysfunction and hair loss, launched a sister direct-to-consumer shop called Hers this week to provide women of all ages medical products such as skincare items to combat hair loss and acne, as well as birth control and Addyi, the only FDA-aproved product for hypoactive sexual desire disorder.

Between the lines: Hims doesn’t accept insurance, per The Outline, and neither does Hers, per Forbes, which means the added privacy and convenience of ordering these products from home, skipping the pharmacy line, and a doctor’s visit, comes at a price, literally. For women in particular, this added cost could be prohibitive to jumping on board since birth control is free or low-cost with most insurance.

What they're saying: It’s not always possible for all women to take off work to see a doctor, and Hilary Coles, the brand lead on the Hers launch, told Forbes the company is trying to put "the power back into women’s hands" to boost access.

By the numbers: The global telehealth market should reach $19.5 billion by 2025, according to Fast Company citing Transparency Market Research.

  • Women will pay Hers between $15-$100 a month, and specifically for a monthly supply of birth control will cough up about $30, per Forbes.

Hers centralizes what a smattering of other direct-to-consumer companies offer in their own niches. Hers may become a countervailing force against businesses like birth control startups such as Nurx, Maven, and The Pill Club, as well as skincare and beauty companies like Curology and Glossier.

The big picture: The timing of several of these startups' launches is about patent expiration, per The Outline. After Bayer Pharmaceuticals’ patent for Yaz, an oral birth control pill, expired in 2014, many other companies started selling their own generic versions and several online pharmaceutical-driven shops started popping up concurrently.

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