“We want women to see us and say, ‘These are people who believe that if you want birth control you should have it,'” said Hans Ganeskar, co-founder and CEO of Nurx, a California-based site founded in 2015 that can both dispense and prescribe by way of computer or app.
Nurx (pronounced New RX) became available to Texas women in June, bringing the total number of states it serves to 17.
Women answer a series of health questions or in some cases undergo video consultation, and then their prescriptions are written by a state-licensed doctor affiliated with the company. The prescription is then sent to a local pharmacy to handle delivery. With insurance, the cost is generally free; without, it is $15 for a one-month supply of pills.
A similar company, The Pill Club, entered the Texas market in early July. It, too, is a California-based startup touting the same message of accessibility and inclusiveness.
The Pill Club differs from Nurx in that it provides all prescriptions and products in-house, without involving local pharmacies.
While it is possible to get an online exam and first-time prescription in some states through The Pill Club, founder Nick Chang said the exam service is not yet available to Texas women. In states where it is unavailable, women upload an existing prescription. The cost is typically covered by insurance.
Chang, a Stanford Law School graduate who also attended medical school, said his company takes its cues from the many personalized niche shopping sites such as Birch Box with its makeup or the Dollar Shave Club.
“All of these things are being delivered, but not birth control. There’s something wrong with that,” he thought as far back as 2014, although his company did not officially launch until last year. It is now in 13 states.
Contraceptives have been available through online pharmacies long before these new, more hip entrants, but Chang said for reasons not entirely clear many women were not taking advantages of them.
At Prjkt Ruby (note the text message spelling), contraception comes paired with social conscience. Also launched in 2015, the service arrived in Texas earlier this year, chief marketing officer Daniel Snyder said.
It also offers its own in-house mail-order pharmacy and prescription services. In Texas, those come after a video consultation. But the company does not accept insurance, instead charging the $20-per-cycle prescription services by cash or credit card.
For every order of a three-month cycle, the company donates 75 cents to Population Services International, a nonprofit organization that supports access for birth control to women in developing nations.
“We’re like the TOMS Shoes of birth control,” said Snyder, referring to the shoe seller that donates either a pair of shoes or a portion of the profits from other items to those in need.
Despite the white-hot political glow that surrounds all things reproductive these days, online contraceptive marketing has mostly flown under the radar, even as they also fill the controversial morning-after pills, said Dr. Kristyn Brandi, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Los Angeles and an advocacy fellow for the Physicians for Reproductive Health.
Despite some initial reservations, she said, the potential boost to access outweighs potential safety concerns in misdiagnosis.
“A lot of the trouble with contraception is getting it,” she said.
Snyder agreed, adding it’s impossible to extract the current political climate from what it happening with his company. In the days after the November election, he said they experienced a noticeable surge in business.
“People were panicking,” he said.
Indeed they were. I noted the existence of Nurx after its appearance in Texas. I think there’s a lot to be said for this business model, but I continue to be worried that it’s just a matter of time before it’s in the crosshairs of the the anti-abortion fanatics. It hasn’t happened yet – several more ridiculous anti-abortion items were on the agenda for this special session, so perhaps Greg Abbott hasn’t been informed about birth control by mail – but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. Until then, if this is something that might be good for you or someone you know, check it out.