Ro, a direct-to-consumer virtual health startup best known for its sexual health products, is dipping into the dermatology space. Patients will now be able to use the service for prescription products that include eczema treatment, medical-grade antiperspirant, and prescription dandruff shampoo.
The company will also be rolling out a “nightly defense skincare” that is a custom prescription skincare product based on lifestyle factors, skincare goals and age.
“So, if I say 'antiaging' to someone who is in their 20s, or 30s, or 40s, that means something completely different to a man or a woman in those demographics. It means different things for different ethnicities. So, for some people they are really concerned about sun damage, so things like age spots, or hyperpigmentation, or uneven skin tone. Other people are more concerned about hormonal acne,” Dr. Melynda Barnes, SVP of medical affairs and research at Ro, told MobiHealthNews. “So, drilling down with the patient, their primary and secondary concerns are huge to figuring out what prescriptions are right for them.”
The products will be available both on Rory, Ro’s platform for female health, which specializes in treatments for menopause and perimenopause, and on Roman, its men’s health platform that historically has a focus on sexual health.
Barnes said this is an opportunity to expand its customer base. She noted that the average Ro user is in his 50s, and the average Rory user is between 38 and 50.
“I think the dermatological conditions extend that [age profile], and it is always our goal [for Rory] to be a full-service women’s health platform and for Roman to be a full-service men’s health platform,” Barnes said. “So, dermatology is actually a great field to enter to launch age-agnostic conditions.”
WHY IT MATTERS
It’s no secret that traditional care has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Barnes noted that a Commonwealth Fund study found in-person dermatology visits are down by 73% since March 1. The startup is pitching its telemedicine services as a way to remedy this.
“A lot of people may not think dermatology is an essential service, but it truly is. It’s one of the more common reasons why people go to their primary care doctor, and dermatology appointments are very common specialty appointments,” Barnes said. “So, if people cannot get to their dermatologist, that is really affecting their quality of life and overall health – especially something like eczema where a breakout can affect your sleep and quality of life."
THE LARGER TREND
Ro has been looking into stretching its service beyond sexual health for some time. Most recently, the company rolled out a prescription allergy service and weight management service on Ro and Rory.
The company has also dipped into smoking cessation with its platform Zero, which uses a prescription nicotine-replacement-therapy and a behavioral app.
Its main competitor, Hims, which also got its start working in the mail-order sexual-health space, also offers dermatology products, including a prescription antiaging cream.
Both Ro and Hims came under fire when a New York Times article examined the companies prescribing practices. The article points out that the clients come to the platforms with a “self-diagnosis” and don’t need to see a doctor in person.