Apr 3, 2019

Uber for pills: Prescription tech startups circumvent doctors' pad

Photo: Elie Khadra/Barcroft Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A new crop of tech startups is making prescription drugs available without ever needing to look a doctor in the eye.

Between the lines: These aren't the sketchy overseas sites that have been advertising Viagra for years. But they're still doing an end-run around doctors' traditional role in the system.

New York Times reporters obtained several prescriptions without speaking to a doctor. Here's what they found:

  • These sites — with names like Roman, Hers, Hims and Kick — advertise blood-pressure medication, Viagra and low-libido treatment Addyi. Some are marketed for uses the FDA hasn't approved, which is illegal.
  • Users simply fill out an online questionnaire, then get a note back from a doctor saying they've been approved and their drugs are in the mail.
  • One such response came back without even the doctor's name.

How it works: These sites, NYT explains, are not health care companies in the same way Uber argues it isn't a transportation operation — they're all just platforms. The doctors who sign these prescriptions work for third parties, and are paid an hourly rate for medical consultations.

Why it matters: These sites flout the idea that doctors use their clinical expertise to find the right treatment for the right patient, reducing them to more of a formality.

  • Realistically, though, this is not too far from how it often works with in-person doctors' visits. That's why pharma companies spend so much money on TV ads urging you to "talk to your doctor" about their products.

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Coronavirus dashboard

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  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 1,203,923 — Total deaths: 64,795 — Total recoveries: 247,273Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 312,237 — Total deaths: 8,502 — Total recoveries: 14,997Map.
  3. Public health latest: CDC launches national trackers and recommends face coverings in public. Federal government will cover costs of COVID-19 treatment for uninsured. The virus is hitting poor, minority communities harder and upending childbirth.
  4. 2020 latest: "We have no contingency plan," Trump said on the 2020 Republican National Convention. "We're having the convention at the end of August."
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World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1.2 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The number of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 1.2 million worldwide Saturday night, as Spain overtook Italy as the country with the most infections outside the U.S.

The big picture: About half the planet's population is now on lockdown and the global death toll was nearing 64,800, by Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins data.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates: Death toll surpasses 8,500

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Recorded deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 8,500 in the U.S. early Sunday, per Johns Hopkins data. The death toll in the U.S. has risen over 1,000 every day for the past four days, since April 1.

The big picture: President Trump said Saturday America's is facing its "toughest" time "between this week and next week." Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said U.S. deaths are expected to continue to rise during this period.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health