October 19, 2021

Men pay six times the mark-up to feel comfortable buying generic Viagra – Entertainment & Life – poconorecord.com

Startups selling drugs for sexual wellness and baldness treatments have revolutionized the way drugs are sold on the internet, but their customers are paying sharply premium prices.

Two of the most popular startups, Hims Inc. and Roman Health Medical sell erection and hair loss medications. They’re following the pharmaceutical version of a common retail startup strategy: take a pedestrian product category – sheets and mattresses, furniture or, in this case, generics – and try to turn it into Internet wealth with packaging. trendy, social media driven marketing and a lot of venture capital.

At Roman, a 20 milligram dose of sildenafil, the generic ingredient in Viagra, costs $ 2. Hims charges $ 3 a pill. The pills are sold at drugstores for around 15 cents, according to a government survey, and a patient can find them in some regular drugstores through online discount programs for as low as 41 cents per pill.

Some customers don’t seem to care. Dylan Nelson, a 28-year-old salesman in Newport Beach, Calif., Is one. His thinning hair had bothered him for a long time, but it was an advertisement for Hims that convinced him to try finasteride, the generic prescription version of Propecia.

Hims charges $ 28.50 for a monthly supply of finasteride, plus a $ 5 fee for an online doctor visit. The drug can be bought for half the price elsewhere.

“I know you can get it cheaper through other sources,” Nelson said, “but I’m willing to pay more for the convenience.”

Better offers

Patients who like the ease of sites may not realize they could have gotten better deals, said Michael Rea, founder of Rx Savings Solutions, which has an app that allows people to compare drug costs. Getting the best deal often depends on where people are buying and what discount programs or coupons they are using. In some cases, newer telemedicine websites can even be cheaper.

“The average consumer doesn’t go to six different websites and compare costs,” Rea said. “They might never know they could have gotten it for five dollars.”

At Hims, Nelson’s monthly prescription for finasteride is 95 cents per pill, plus the cost of an initial doctor visit, but with coupons from an online discount provider like GoodRx, the tablets can be bought for less than half, about 40 cents. Pharmacies can buy the drug for only 12 cents a pill.

Hims CEO Andrew Dudum said price was not the only concern for patients.

“Along with the convenience and cost savings of not having to go to the doctor or the pharmacy, you have access to a personalized consultation with a doctor,” Dudum said. The company sells its drugs on a cash basis, apart from insurance which will sometimes cover the costs of a doctor or a drug through the regular system.

Roman declined to comment.

The sales pitch matters

Pfizer Inc., which brought Viagra to the market, and Merck & Co., which sold Propecia, spent years and millions of dollars convincing men that they needed these drugs. In 2017, in the last few months before generics hit the market, Viagra cost $ 61.54 per 100 milligram pill, while Propecia cost $ 2.51 per pill before losing its patent in 2013. Once the drugs became generic, the marketing and branding efforts of the companies essentially came to a halt. . Startups stepped into the divide, rebuilding the brand and the price.

“Genie isn’t the product; it’s the way they deliver it,” said Nelson, the hair patient, who deleted his own Instagram account after a photo of his regrown hair that Hims reposted on the company’s account caused a flood of messages.

Companies have also been faced with questions about some of their practices, including the promotion of prescription drugs for off-label uses. Hims advertises an antidepressant for premature ejaculation and a blood pressure drug, propranolol, to stop stage fright. None of these uses have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

There is also nothing preventing people from taking advantage of Hims and Roman’s low-cost medical consultations and then moving their prescription elsewhere to be filled. Hims and Roman both say they will be sending prescriptions to another pharmacy, raising the possibility that startups will take the brunt of finding new customers and then lose their business in the long run.

Investors shoveled money into startups. After another round of fundraising in January, Hims was valued at around $ 1 billion, according to PitchBook. Roman raised $ 85 million last month, valuing the company at $ 500 million, according to PitchBook.

Their success has also attracted competition. Blink Health, a drug-rebate startup that offers low prices on generic drugs, recently added a men’s health telemedicine offering that undermines Hims and Roman, charging $ 6.95 for 10 sildenafil pills. and $ 8.95 for a month’s supply of finasteride. There’s also Chickpea, which sells supplements to women with cystitis; Cove, for migraines; Kick Health for propranolol; and guard for hair loss.

Cost of attracting new customers

The crowded area has made it expensive to attract new customers. In four weeks in February this year, Blink was paying an average of nearly $ 680,000 per week for various marketing costs, including paid search and Facebook, to generate about $ 520,000 in gross realized weekly income, on average, according to figures seen by Bloomberg News.

An external spokesperson for Blink did not respond to a Bloomberg request for comment.

According to iSpot, Hims launched 18 nationwide broadcast TV ad campaigns and Roman ran 11, in addition to aggressive targeted campaigns on social media platforms like Instagram. Hims hired Partners & Spade, a branding company that also has J. Crew and Warby Parker as clients. A campaign for Roman by Circus Maximus won an AdAge digital award.

They also turned to the same older customers that branded pharmaceutical companies once sought. While a recent Hims commercial featured rapper Snoop Dogg, the two recently advertised on cable news channels, including prime-time Fox News opinion shows with hosts Tucker. Carlson and Laura Ingraham. The audience for cable news in general tends to be older, and Fox’s shows have an audience of mostly people over the age of 50, according to the Nielsen Company, which tracks the audience.

While companies have helped attract new patients, their biggest challenge might be keeping them. Brandon Scarberry, 19, lives in North Carolina and commented on one of Hims’ Instagram posts: “5x20mg for ridiculous $ 25. Go see a doctor.”


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