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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.

Go deeper

42 mins ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

By the numbers: Catholics, Biden and abortion

Expand chart
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Biden — the second Catholic U.S. president — will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, as some church leaders debate whether to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

By the numbers: Overall, two in three U.S. Catholics believe Biden should be allowed to take Communion despite his stance on abortion, according to polling by Pew Research Center.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause, chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.