There's no shortage of start-ups offering quick, same-day delivery for groceries and other goods, so it's no surprise that some Bay Area companies are eying pharmaceutical deliveries as a new growth industry.
A plethora of new smartphone app-based companies operating as both pharmacies and delivery companies have opened up shop in recent years, and have risen in popularity among customers and investors. From the nation-wide company PillPack to local delivery services operating in Bay Area cities, there's a hearty desire to escape the sometimes long lines at big box stores like CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens.
Cary Breese, CEO of the Mountain View-based start-up NowRx, said it's perplexing that in the age of on-demand services like Google Express and Postmates, it's still commonplace to get stuck in a line at a pharmacy for 45 minutes, standing around with a scrap of paper from the doctor's office. What's more, he said, most of the independent pharmacies have been pushed out by Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid, giving people dwindling options for where they get their medicine.
"If you do a search, there just aren't any mom and pop pharmacies left. There really (are) no choices for consumers," Breese said.
NowRx, which kicked off operations at its location on Old Middlefield Way at the beginning of the year, allows customers to send in prescriptions, make their copay remotely and receive same-day delivery at no extra cost. Express one-hour delivery costs extra -- provided customers live within an hour's drive of the Mountain View location.
Breese said this is only NowRx's first year of business, but the small team has already seen plenty of customers, including senior citizens with mobility issues, busy working professionals, working parents and patients just coming out of the hospital following hip and knee surgeries. As the company grows, he said, the company plans to appeal to the mainstream market, but these patients tend to really benefit from an expedited pharmacy service.
Prescription-delivering start-ups can mostly be divided into two types. One acts primarily as a courier service, picking up prescriptions from existing pharmacies and delivering them to customers. From a regulatory perspective, companies like San Francisco-based TinyRx are a whole lot easier to get off the ground, Breese said. But it does little to alleviate the service bottleneck at existing pharmacies.
On the other hand, companies like NowRx, NimbleRx and ScriptDash -- all Bay Area-based -- are taking it a step further. After jumping through several regulatory hoops with the California Pharmacy Board and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as getting approval by a myriad of insurance companies, NowRx was able to build and operate its own pharmacy to go with the delivery and technology services.
"We started on this project full time around June last year. It took a good six months to get through all the regulatory hurdles," Breese said.
The company currently has five employees, including a pharmacist and drivers who deliver prescription orders from Redwood City to San Jose. The limits are mostly bounded by the ability to provide one-hour service, Breese said, and the hope is that venture capital will help fuel future expansion into the South Bay.
Convenience is a big selling point for the companies, but Breese said these kinds of startups can play a bigger role as well. Because it's a pain to wait in line for long periods of time, only to be told the pharmacy is out of stock, he said some patients put off the trip entirely and miss taking their daily medication. With any luck, he said, his startup will prevent that from happening.
"Our long-term goal is to improve patient health," Breese said.