Cyrus Massoumi, Founder of Dr. B, tells us about his online platform that makes medical assessment easily accessible to patients and provides access to COVID-19 therapies that might otherwise be difficult to obtain.
The COVID-19 antiviral drugs Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir) and Lagevrio (molnupiravir) should be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms, but it is difficult for some to get these drugs within this window. Massoumi says Dr. B allows patients to receive medication quickly, without an in-person office visit and, sometimes, at no cost.
“We have created the first telehealth company that makes health services accessible regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. I have always been passionate about improving efficiency and equity in healthcare. One of my biggest regrets with Zocdoc is that we haven’t done enough to ensure everyone has access to healthcare. I’m trying to correct that with Dr. B,” says Massoumi.
Quickly connecting with a doctor to get COVID-19 antivirals is crucial for some patients, but accessing healthcare can sometimes be difficult.
Dr. B was founded in 2021 to connect providers of remaining COVID vaccines with patients wishing to receive them.
As the pandemic has progressed, the platform has evolved to meet other needs that have materialized in the healthcare industry, including recently unveiling its “Visitless Prescriptions” service.
“We are currently focused on providing a convenient way to get prescriptions. Our doctor consultations are only $15, less than the average insurance copayment. Additionally, more than 90 million Americans don’t have medical coverage or can’t afford it. For low-income Americans, we offer our service for free,” says Massoumi.
Patients share their medical history and key details via an online health assessment. A doctor then reviews the information and provides a prescription for any necessary medications the patient needs. The medications can then be refilled by a pharmacy of the patient’s choice.
Although it is not an online pharmacy that fills patients’ medications, it seeks to provide patients with a way to easily compare drug prices in the future, including listing brand name drugs by compared to the generic versions.
“Access to healthcare is a really difficult problem and I think all healthcare companies have a responsibility to help solve it. We are focused on removing barriers to access and cost when ‘It’s about trying to get prescription drugs,’ says Massoumi.
“Getting a doctor’s appointment to access essential medicines is still difficult for many people as it can be difficult and often too long to make doctor’s appointments for prescriptions like COVID-19 treatments. Our platform easy to use offers a simple way to get prescriptions online without the need for an appointment.Offering a free option is also unprecedented for a telehealth start-up and is a big step in terms of expanding its access to care.
COVID-19 antivirals, in particular, have become difficult to access for some patients. There are many requirements that accompany the distribution of medications to patients, and for good reason.
Paxlovid from Pfizer and Molnupiravir from Merck & Co are two oral antiviral treatments licensed for patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 at high risk of developing severe disease. Both drugs are available by prescription only.
“We are committed to expanding access to COVID-19 resources from day one, especially when existing solutions fall short of meeting patient needs. Our platform was first launched in the United States at the height of the COVID crisis to save lives by getting vaccines to people in need. It was a natural transition for us to move into expanding access to COVID-19 therapies,” says Massoumi.
For both drugs, it is necessary to take them within five days of the onset of symptoms. While the COVID antiviral pills Paxlovid and Molnupiravir have been available for several months, many people struggle to get a doctor’s prescription during the five-day window.
“Individuals have one or two routes to obtain antiviral drugs once they test positive for COVID-19. If you have health coverage and a primary doctor, hopefully they are available immediately for an appointment to get a prescription within five days. If you don’t have medical coverage or a family doctor, your other option is to go to a pharmacy to get tested and prescribed. By queuing at the pharmacy, you can also transmit COVID-19 to others,” says Massoumi.
According to the FDA, one must also meet specific requirements before being allowed to take these medications, including having no known or suspected severe kidney failure and no known or suspected severe liver failure.
“Each prescription request is reviewed by a board-certified physician, and our health assessment carefully screens each patient to ensure they are eligible for the drug according to FDA guidelines. Patients must submit a photo of a positive COVID-19 test and are asked questions about symptoms, pre-existing conditions and medications they are currently taking to ensure they are eligible for treatment with Paxlovid or Molnupiravir,” says Massoumi.
“If a patient has a complicated medical condition that the doctor thinks would be best for them to see their regular doctor, the patient is informed and we don’t move forward with a prescription.”
There is also the possibility of rebound COVID-19 infections after taking Paxlovid; therefore, the ability to follow up with a doctor is necessary.
After the initial visit, patients can ask questions about their prescriptions or speak to a doctor through an online patient dashboard through Dr. B.
“COVID-19 antivirals are important, life-saving drugs that are especially important to get if you are at high risk. We’ve created a service where people can easily upload their COVID-19 test results, complete a convenient online health assessment at their own pace, and be seen by a doctor within 24 hours. The hurdle for most individuals is getting the prescription itself. Once they have a script, they can choose from many pharmacies since antivirals are widely distributed,” says Massoumi.
About the interviewee
Cyrus Massoumi is the founder and CEO of Dr. B, a telehealth company whose mission is to make health care more efficient and equitable. Previously, Massoumi founded Zocdoc, which he ran for eight years. He is also a founder and partner of humbition, a start-up venture capital firm. He is a member of the advisory board of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He earned a finance degree from the Wharton School, then earned an MBA from Columbia Business School.
About the Author
Jessica Hagen is a freelance health and life science writer and project manager who has worked with XR medical companies, fiction/non-fiction writers, non-profit and for-profit organizations and entities. governmental.