Direct-to-consumer medicine companies like Hims and Hubble certainly have an appeal, but are they truly safe for patients?
If you’re on Instagram or if you’ve taken the New York City subway lately, chances are you’ve heard of Hims, the men’s health and wellness company with a penchant for advertisements featuring suggestive cacti and eggplants against pastel backgrounds. The web-based startup targets the young male demographic with skincare products, multivitamins, and erectile dysfunction medications. In January, just a few months after its first birthday, the company joined Silicon Valley’s vaunted “unicorn” club: It received a venture-capital investment that put its valuation at $1 billion.
The ambitious valuation is certainly a remarkable achievement for the young company. But it’s also yet another signal that a new e-commerce market that one might call “direct-to-consumer medicine” is on the rise. Although the companies in this sector have different styles and specialties, they all aim to link patients, pharmacies, and doctors through web apps and the cloud. Their core business models are remarkably similar. First, a self-diagnosing consumer selects a product they think they need. Then, the customer completes an online questionnaire, which is reviewed by a physician if a prescription is needed. A secure messaging platform is available if the customer has questions for the physician before the order is filled and mailed to their door.