Viagra On Demand Startup Roman joins the male-centric drug bandwagon

For most 17-year-olds, suffering from erectile dysfunction would quickly rise to the top of their lives worst things that ever happened‘ lists. That’s exactly how it was for Zachariah Reitano, now 26, and it got worse — his erectile dysfunction was a symptom of an undiagnosed heart problem, which resulted in heart surgery, he told TechCrunch. During recovery, he was prescribed a drug with a side effect of erectile dysfunction, something he often kept low in most people. He was later able to get off the medication, but when the symptoms returned, he knew what was coming next. This time he was in a serious relationship and dreaded the thought of disappointing his partner.

Viagra or a similar drug seemed like the solution, but it was one thing to know you needed it and quite another to actually go to a doctor and discuss your problems. Reitano, like many men, wondered if there was an easier, less embarrassing route. He started looking at some online pharmacies; the sketchy kind that promised the pills at far too good a price, imported from India or Canada, with uncontrolled ingredients.

He knew there had to be a better way, which led to him co-founding Roman, an on-demand service for men suffering from erectile dysfunction. Its co-founders are Saman Rahmanian and Rob Schutz. So far they have raised a $3.1 million seed round including General Catalyst and Slow Ventures.

Roman

While Roman is specifically for men with erection problems, Reitano’s startup has capitalized on a rising trend in the startup world: medical solutions aimed at men. Surprisingly, this is an area where women have actually made more strides, with startups like Nurx, Maven, and The Pill Club providing prescriptions for women’s birth control and general health. Of course there have been options for men, such as using on-demand GP services such as Lemonaid Health and Doctor on Demand, but in these cases erection problems are part of a wider health assessment, and there is certainly a desire for something more streamlined and problem specific .

YoDerm

This week, YoDerm, a startup that supplies prescription drugs from dermatologists, announced that they will be providing hair loss medications to men through their mobile app. After completing an online profile and uploading photos, a dermatologist will assess whether you are a good candidate for a hair loss treatment. If approved, men can opt for Finasteride (the generic for Propecia) which tackles male pattern baldness by reducing DHT, a hormone linked to hair loss. This comes for $40 per month.

Hair loss affects a large number of people each year, many of whom experience hair loss from their early twenties. It’s an embarrassing topic to bring up, hence the lack of follow-up for patients, who often settle for OTC Rogaine over more effective medication. “High cost, distance and time are major barriers many people face when visiting the doctor,” said Ben Holber, CEO of YoDerm. “Often patients have to wait weeks or even months to see a dermatologist.”

Again, hair loss, like erectile dysfunction, falls into that uncomfortable’don’t want to talk about it’ space, despite the large number of men suffering from these problems. The facts are grim; about 20% of men in their 20s and 30% of men in their 30s suffer from some form of erectile dysfunction, a number that rises as they age. On the hair loss side, the numbers fluctuate but are equally high. But this does not correlate with an increase in doctor visits. Historically, men have seen the doctor far less than women, citing excuses of time, inclination, and that it’s just not something they discuss. The Cleveland Clinic surveyed a number of men and found that only 40% go to the doctor when they have a problem, while the others hope the problem will “just go away.”

Virility Medical, an Israeli startup, is trying to tackle erectile dysfunction from a different angle. They made a patch that is placed between the perineum, the area between the scrotum and the anus. This patch is controlled by a smartphone app, which sends a low-frequency electrical current to contract the muscles responsible for ejaculation — similar to those 1990s abdominal belts — which then slows it down. The patient can control the intensity. They just completed their first round of trials and say it has been successful, with participants experiencing a 3.5-fold increase in ejaculation delay.

“According to a market study we conducted, this has a market potential significantly greater than the Viagra pill,” said Zohar Gendler, CEO of NGT3, the technology incubator that Virility Medical is a part of.

This is a good industry to get into – the premature ejaculation market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 9.6% and reach $2 billion by 2020, according to Technavio’s Global Premature Ejaculation Treatment Market report.

Certainly, in some ways these various male-focused medical treatments obscure the problem. Yes, people get the treatment they need, but they also gloss over the fact that in general you really need to go to the doctor and not just avoid them until the worst happens. With so many current diseases having preventative treatments, this is irresponsible in some ways as it allows the status quo of men to avoid checkups.

As a caveat, Roman says that to be accepted, you must have had full medical treatment within the past five years and be honest with your answers, even offering discounts when you send in your results. But because they rely on people’s honesty, there is an element of abuse potential for people who want to try this for “fun”. To counteract this, Roman gives a maximum of ten doses per month.

For many men who suffer in silence and would never go to the doctor, these companies offer some reprieve, but in the bigger picture, pull yourself together and really get checked. Your body will thank you.

Note: Forbes Media LLC has a small passive investment in Roman

Viagra On Demand Startup Roman joins the male-centric drug bandwagon

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