Mail order pharmacies like Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Company and Amazon’s RxPass are making prescription drugs more accessible and affordable. But there’s one thing these companies are missing: in-depth consultations with pharmacists, a startup founder declared.
“[Mail order] models are fantastic and absolutely needed,” said David Medvedeff, co-founder and CEO of Aspen RxHealth. “We know that part of the adherence issue that we’re all struggling with is affordability and they’re solving for affordability and access from the mail order perspective. I’m not knocking those models at all because they’re absolutely needed. … They do have pharmacists and they are having conversations [with patients]but they’re very medication-specific, targeted type of conversations.”
Tampa, Florida-based Aspen RxHealth aims to fill that gap. Rather than act as the dispenser of medications, it focuses on pharmacist-patient consultations to help patients better understand their medications. The company works with health plans — including Humana, UnitedHealthcare and Centene — to connect patients with pharmacists who contract with Aspen. Payer clients pay Aspen once consultations are completed.
These patients are matched with pharmacists based on factors like location and language, and then they have a telephone conversation to discuss their medications, how to take them correctly and how the medications are affecting them. After that first consultation, patients can stay in touch with the pharmacist for continuing care.
“The pharmacists represent themselves as an extension of the health plan,” Medvedeff said. “We know quite a bit of information on that patient that is shared with us by the health plan, including all the medications they’re taking and then the gap in care we’re trying to close. Then the pharmacist will have a very meaningful conversation with that patient to understand why the gap exists and how we close it.”
As mail order pharmacies gain popularity, Medvedeff sees Aspen as a potential partner for these companies so they can supplement their expertise in accessibility with Aspen’s clinical expertise. He said Aspen has reached out to several mail order pharmacies and is in conversation with some of the more tech-forward pharmacies, though he didn’t name which ones.
“Whether it’s Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drugs or Amazon providing RxPass or more tech-forward, niche-type pharmacies, they’re great for a phenomenal dispensing experience,” he said. “I can get my medications more affordably, more quickly from the comfort of my home. But what’s missing is somebody who’s really driving appropriate use of all medications — kind of a quarterback if you will — to see across all the different dispensing sites, have all of the information, and empower that patient … to make sure they’re on the right mix of meds to drive the intended outcome.”
Not bringing clinical expertise to the dispensing of prescription drugs has potentially dangerous implications for patients.
“We would be leaving the monitoring of medication use to the patient or their families and medications are not getting simpler, they’re getting more complex,” Medvedeff said. “The administration of these medications is getting far more complex. The side effect profiles are mind boggling. … The more disintermediated the pharmacist is from the process, the more we rely on tech and even AI to fill scripts and send them, the more disconnected the patient is and the more they’re left on their own to figure this out.”
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