All drugs are not created equal

Written by Zachariah Reitano 

Written by Zachariah Reitano 

last updated: Jan 23, 2020

3 min read

While perfect interchangeability of drugs with the same active ingredient makes sense in theory, it removes a key element of product differentiation — quality. Quality of ingredients and production as a source of differentiation is not a new concept. Coffee costs 50 cents per cup in one location and $6 in another. A cow injected with hormones is not the same as a free-range grass fed cow — even though they are both cows.

Why should this be any different with prescription drugs?

As a result of their perceived perfect interchangeability, generic drug manufacturers who maintain the highest safety and quality standards, of which there are many, haven’t been able to differentiate themselves to patients based on their quality.

Unfortunately, over time, they have become true commodities. The problem is that while drugs are estimated to be the same in all the ways that we think matter, they are different in more ways than we realize (e.g., size, shape, fillers, coatings, dyes, binding, color, degree of pressure the tablet was stamped) and consumers have yet to be able to show their appreciation for these differences.

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that high-quality ingredients and production matter to consumers. As competition for consumers has increased across industries, consumers have been able to factor additional criteria into their decision making process and have been able to reward companies who respond to what matters most to them. Companies like Everlane and Ritual have differentiated themselves by being transparent about their supply chain and highlighting the quality of their products.

Can you imagine someone today walking into a retail pharmacy, asking who the generic manufacturer of their medication is, hearing the answer, and then leaving without their prescription? What if their insurance only covers medication from that pharmacy network? What if that’s the only pharmacy nearby?

It’s not that consumers don’t care, it’s that they haven’t been able to show just how much the quality of their medication matters to them like they have in other aspects of their life.

Patients don’t have enough choice (i.e., there isn’t enough competition) and they don’t have enough information (i.e., there isn’t enough transparency). That’s starting to change.

The recent consumerization of healthcare gives drug companies — both brand and generics — the same opportunity to differentiate themselves when it comes to quality manufacturing and to empower patients to choose based on that promise of quality. Direct to consumer companies, like Ro, can empower patients with additional information to make educated decisions about their health.

Introducing Project Sunshine

Today, we’re excited to announce Project Sunshine, Ro’s initiative to add more transparency to the drug supply chain for our members, with our inaugural supplier, Greenstone, a Pfizer company.

Starting today, all of our generic Viagra and sildenafil citrate will be sourced directly from Greenstone, a Pfizer company — and it will be manufactured in the exact same facility in France that makes branded Viagra.

We chose Greenstone because of their commitment to safety and quality with the ultimate goal of helping patients live healthier lives. Every single interaction we’ve had with the Greenstone team has focused on the quality of their manufacturing facilities, their vision for advancing public health, and their desire to improve patient adherence.

In addition, Ro will now list the manufacturer and their locations, for every product we offer through our digital clinics directly on our website.

For too long, patients have been asked to blindly trust the healthcare system. No more. Patients deserve to know everything about their healthcare, from how their physician is compensated to where their medication is sourced.

We have a long way to go to bring the same level of transparency we have for generic Viagra and sildenafil citrate to all of our other products, and Ro is committed to providing unrivaled levels of transparency to put patients back in control of their health. We hope other companies join us in bringing even more transparency to patients across the industry.

This is just the beginning. We’re excited to continue collaborating with manufacturers who share our commitment to quality and transparency.

Everything we know, our patients know. That is Project Sunshine.