- Birth control delivery startup Pill Club is battling with
health giant CVS Caremark over how much it gets paid for
- Pill Club has taken the feud to the public, posting a plea on
its website titled “CVS, don’t
take away access to birth control.”
- The hashtag #CVSDeniesCare also went viral on Twitter on
- Pill Club patients who get prescriptions covered through CVS
Caremark are an important part of the startup’s business. If
reimbursement rates are cut there’s a “chance that Pill Club can’t
work with CVS Caremark,” a spokeswoman for Pill Club said.
- No other birth control delivery startups contacted by Business
Insider early Thursday could confirm that they were also affected,
and CVS had no immediate comment.
- The episode shows how public outrage could become a new tool in
health startups’ contract negotiations with established healthcare
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Birth-control-delivery startup Pill Club is taking a clash with
health giant CVS Caremark to the public arena.
Pill Club and CVS Caremark are feuding over how much CVS pays
Pill Club to send prescriptions to its customers. The startup
posted a plea on its website
to CVS, titled “Don’t take away access to birth control,” and the
issue began trending on Twitter on Thursday morning, under the
And with that, a feud between corporations over reimbursement
rates turned into a battle over hot button issues like access to
contraception and women’s rights. The American
Civil Liberties Union weighed in, as did the president
of pro-choice advocacy group NARAL.
Thread: Learned this morning that CVS
Caremark is cutting reimbursement rates for mail order birth
control pills, making it more expensive and potentially out of
reach for tens of thousands of women who for many reasons cannot
get to the pharmacy every month.
— ilyse hogue (@ilyseh)
August 15, 2019
A spokeswoman for Pill Club said that the company sent an email
Thursday morning to its users and “alerted its partner
organizations and friends close to the company about the
situation.” The spokeswoman said that the company didn’t launch the
viral Twitter campaign.
Pill Club patients who get prescriptions covered
through CVS Caremark are an important part of the startup’s
business, the spokeswoman said, though she did not comment on the
“If we cannot convince CVS to change course in the next few
weeks, we will have no choice but to stop serving people with CVS
Caremark pharmacy benefits,” Pill Club said on its website.
Pill Club is one of a crop of new startups like
Hers that prescribe birth control online and ship it to the
customer’s door, and viral social media posts have suggested that
the CVS Caremark change could affect other birth control delivery
startups as well. No other birth control delivery startups
contacted by Business Insider on Thursday could confirm that they
were also affected
A CVS spokesman had no immediate comment.
Pill Club has also sought to portray CVS as hostile to women’s
health issues. In an email to Business Insider, a Pill Club
spokeswoman wrote that “CVS clearly doesn’t see women’s health as a
priority,” citing the health giant’s connections to the Trump
administration and its majority-male board of directors. The
language used by Pill Club also closely mirrors that used by some
people on social media.
#CVSDeniesCare is trending because @cvspharmacy,
which is a $77 billion company run by a male-dominated board of
directors, has decided to restrict access to and raise costs of
home delivery birth control for tens of thousands of women with
DO BETTER CVS.
— Ryan Knight :statue_of_liberty: (@ProudResister)
August 15, 2019
Emily Patterson, a social media
manager at the ACLU, said the the organization tweeted using the
hash tag #CVSDeniesCare after seeing it trending, not because
another group encouraged it to get involved.
A new online model for prescriptions
Pill Club works like this: Customers who go online can say what
their birth control preference is, and list out any health concerns
that might be relevant.
One of the company’s physicians then reviews that information,
and decides whether to write a prescription. Pill Club’s pharmacies
send those pills, or other birth control, to a customer’s front
door, where it comes in a “care package” that also includes goodies
like sweets and stickers.
Companies like Pill Club are part of a new trend towards
more convenient, online models for prescription medications.
These new startups typically combine a virtual doctor’s visit with
medication shipped directly to the customer.
Pill Club is one of a handful of these companies that fills
prescriptions through a patient’s health insurance. That’s where
companies like CVS Caremark, termed “pharmacy-benefit managers,”
come in. They agree to pay a certain amount of money per
prescription to pharmacies.
This isn’t the first time online startups have taken disputes
with PBMs public. In 2016, now-Amazon-owned online pharmacy
PillPack got into a
public argument with Express Scripts that almost resulted in
PillPack getting cut from the PBM’s massive network.