There have been multiple movies of madcap bike messengers zooming through the streets of Manhattan, but Zipdrug, a New York startup, wants to put a different spin on that activity: using bike messengers and couriers to deliver meds to patients from the dispensing pharmacy. The company, which went into operation in July and won a $2.6-million seed-round funding last month, has a business model based on many other Internet-related startups: providing a convenience service in which clients and products are linked (both geographically and financially) through smartphone technology. Clients pay a $10 fee for the delivery; the couriers (who are said to have HIPAA patient-privacy training) pick up and already-dispensed prescription, and then deliver it, within an hour of ordering.
In describing the business to DrugStore News, among others, CEO Stu Libby emphasizes the potential benefits of improved medication adherence; an equally significant problem is medication abandonment (never picking up a prescription in the first place), which can affect as many as a third of prescriptions written. That represents a cost to the dispensing pharmacy, and ultimately to the healthcare provider and payer. Libby tells Pharmaceutical Commerce that repeat business is currently running at 35%, and while it’s too soon to demonstrate improved adherence, he says that the business grew tenfold (admittedly from a small base) between October and November.
Another implication of the business model is current direct-to-patient practices, which involve courier companies and the general-purpose express delivery firms. “ZipDrug is already taking business away from FedEx and UPS,” says Libby, generally for specialty-pharmaceutical deliveries, including those for temperature-controlled products (the messengers are equipped with insulated bags). One restriction: deliveries of controlled substances are not available.
As currently constructed, ZipDrug is arguably geared only for major urban areas (which is no small thing itself). But there are rumblings of Uber-like commercial-delivery services, which, in theory, could operate nationally. Libby also cites the trends toward personalized medicine, in-the-home healthcare delivery and telemedicine as factors that could benefit his company. These days, Internet companies with a less concrete concept than ZipDrugs’ are popping up regularly; who’s to say if this one will fail?