What does the growing crop of direct-to-patient brands mean for pharmaceutical manufacturers? We've compiled a competitive analysis.
As the frictionless economy defined by brands like Uber, Postmates, and Amazon continues its advance into every corner of the consumer experience, more and more patients are filling their prescriptions online.
In 2014, the global online pharmacy market was estimated to be worth roughly $29 billion. By 2023, it’s predicted the market will reach around $128 billion. It should come as no surprise, then, that it feels like a new direct-to-patient (DTP) pharmacy program emerges every week.
Telehealth companies like Hims, Roman, and Nurx are cashing in on pharmacy’s entry into the frictionless economy with smartly designed e-commerce websites featuring streamlined user experiences. Online physician consults and customer service chat bot capabilities remove the friction of awkward doctors’ visits, while slick, private equity-backed marketing campaigns and custom-branded packaging create a personalized patient experience.
Many of these brands are breathing new life into multi-source generics by rebranding them under their own name. Others focus on specific disease states or offer digital versions of the traditional pharmacy experience. Still others are B2B models, playing a supporting role for the more consumer-facing brands or, in unique cases like Medvantx, offering an integrated, comprehensive model that caters directly to pharmaceutical manufacturers themselves.
Of course, any survey of the direct-to-patient landscape would be woefully incomplete without a mention of the proverbial elephant in the room. With its acquisition of PillPack—and the company’s pharmacy licensure in all 50 U.S. states — Amazon has laid the groundwork for a DTP prescription marketplace that has the potential to redefine pharmacy marketing and retail entirely. So, what does the wide-ranging current crop of direct-to-patient brands mean for pharmaceutical manufacturers? Each represents either a unique threat or an imminent opportunity for drug companies, as the consumer landscape continues to be redefined by the frictionless economy.
To help, we’ve compiled a side-by-side comparison of some of the nation’s top DTP brands, looking at a range of critical attributes and offerings. When looking for partners to help design, develop, and execute their direct-to-patient strategies, manufacturers are advised to look closely at which companies offer proven, scalable pharmacy platforms and licensure and which are just e-commerce telehealth providers.
Some direct-to-patient brands have retail pharmacies in addition to online prescription fulfillment capabilities. Some have robust logistics platforms, including final-mile home delivery. Noteworthy also is accreditation as a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), which confirms pharmacies as meeting strict standards of compliance and security.
The Direct-to-Patient Competitive Grid
Direct-to-patient platforms give manufacturers powerful ways to leverage brand loyalty, compete against the rise of rebranded generics, and avoid the commoditization of the forthcoming Amazon prescription marketplace. But it’s clear that not all DTP brands are the same.
By partnering with the right direct-to-patient platform, manufacturers can bypass legacy channels, avoid the hassles of formulary exclusion, and reach patients upstream of competing platforms, with a personalized experience centered on convenience and patient delight.