After a doctor’s visit, you take your prescription to your local pharmacy, wait (way too long) for your medication to be ready, and then pay…how much? Your co-pay? More? Less? What if you’re not insured?
Consumers usually know their costs before choosing whether to buy, but not when it comes to pharmaceuticals. Geoffrey Chaiken set out to change that through e-commerce prescription company Blink Health, which he co-founded with his brother, Matthew, in 2015.
In just four years, the company has formed partnerships with more than 35,000 retail pharmacy partners, including Walmart, Costco, most major grocery chains, and thousands of independent pharmacies. “This network represents more retail locations than the nation’s McDonald’s, Starbucks, and KFCs combined,” Chaiken says.
Blink has also recruited executives with decades of leadership experience in pharmaceuticals and e-commerce, and with $175M in backing, its journey is off to a roaring start.
Positioned for the future
Chaiken’s father and grandfather were both physicians, a path that he decided not to take. “When I told my grandfather that I didn’t intend to become a doctor, he responded with a simple question, ‘How, then, will you help people?’” Chaiken says. “Blink Health was born out of that question.”
Since he had personal experience with hearing loss and a lingering interest in science and medicine, as a student Chaiken applied for an internship at an ear damage research lab at Rockefeller University in New York, but was rejected. His mother encouraged him not to take no for an answer, and soon he was working with neuroscientist and Nobel winner Paul Greengard. It was a lesson in tenacity that has served him well—and an opportunity to gain lifelong mentors and business partners.
I strongly believe that prescription medications are as vital as food, air, and water, and that everyone should have access to the same prices. This is why Blink Health prioritizes humans over profits, helping patients make informed decisions about the drugs they need, with no hidden fees, pricey memberships, or cumbersome coupons.
He also prepared for his future by earning a biology undergrad degree and an MBA from Harvard Business School. And he got to know the pharmaceutical business from the inside by founding Marinus Pharmaceuticals, which develops novel treatments for epilepsy, and managing a portfolio at Brave Warrior Advisors that included investments in technology and pharmaceutical supply chains.
Keeping It Simple
Using the Blink Health app, customers can see the price of their medications, order them easily, and either pick them up locally or have them shipped to their homes. The app is free and no membership fees apply. Prices for the drugs are negotiated with pharmaceutical companies directly, cutting out the middlemen that Chaiken says tend to drive up costs.
One of the company’s early successes came in 2016 when Blink formed a partnership with Eli Lilly and Company to offer a 40% discount on insulin. This program reduced insulin costs for a vulnerable patient population: people who pay full retail prices at the pharmacy, such as those who have no insurance or are in the deductible phase of their high-deductible insurance plans. Patients on Medicare can also use Blink.
“I strongly believe that prescription medications are as vital as food, air, and water, and that everyone should have access to the same prices. This is why Blink Health prioritizes humans over profits, helping patients make informed decisions about the drugs they need, with no hidden fees, pricey memberships, or cumbersome coupons.”
For its next phase, Blink is planning to expand into low-cost telemedicine, providing health consultations for patients across the country online and by phone. “We believe our e-commerce marketplace model can be used to solve the cost crisis across many areas of healthcare,” Chaiken says.
Among the valuable board members Blink has recruited is Tom Tryforos, investor at Grant Street Capital and adjunct professor at Columbia Business School. “He gave us a simple, but incredibly helpful nugget of wisdom: Spend your time working on the biggest, most valuable challenges,” Chaiken says. It’s a message that echoes Chaiken’s grandfather’s query about how he will help. And Blink is already finding ways to give back.
In 2018, the company partnered with Remote Area Medical (RAM), a nonprofit that provides free dental, vision, and medical services to underserved and uninsured individuals through mobile clinics. At a pop-up clinic in Tennessee, Blink employees volunteered and gave $20 vouchers to RAM patients to go toward medications. It’s a partnership that they plan to continue.
“We believe families shouldn’t struggle to afford the prescriptions they need to keep themselves and their loved ones healthy,” Chaiken says. “We are committed to our patients.”