How GoodRx is taking on Amazon with prescription discounts

GoodRx Co-CEO Doug Hirsch joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss how his company is aiming to change the economics of health care.

Video transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, price increases for prescription drugs continues to outpace inflation by many measures. That's only added to growing cost of health care. GoodRx says it has a solution. And it's helped Americans save roughly $30 billion on prescription drug costs so far.

Let's bring in Doug Hirsch, the co-CEO of GoodRx. We've also got Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani joining in on the conversation. Doug, always good to talk to you. It feels like this is kind of this age-old question of how do you tackle the issue of rising health care costs. What's the magic solution for GoodRx?

DOUG HIRSCH: Honestly, it all starts with just being transparent and open and keeping health care simple for consumers because it's too complicated in this country. And it just creates confusion and fear. And then people just don't get the health care that they need.

And so for a decade now, our whole focus has just been on keeping health care easy so the consumer could come in, look up a drug, see a price, get a coupon, show up at the pharmacy. I mean, we're trying to make health care act like every other industry. And it's just so, so hard because of the confusing nature of our system. But we think we've made a lot of great progress.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, on that progress, Doug, of course, we've talked multiple times about how the discount is something that people know about now. They're familiar with it. They're familiar with your company. And you also have a lot of information for them to get better educated about the system.

But what's left? What are the existing barriers still that prevent us broadly in America from getting better drug prices and from getting transparent drug prices?

DOUG HIRSCH: Sure. I mean, our focus at this point is on all of health care, right? I mean, we've spent 10 years focusing on, really, just trying to hammered down the cost of those drugs Americans take every day, those generic drugs that they have 90% of the drugs Americans take. But there's brand drugs, which we've started to make tremendous progress on.

And of course, there's the rest of care. We have a telemedicine service. We do mail order prescriptions now. This is a $3.6 trillion market. And we're going to continue to focus and continue to work hard until all Americans can find affordable care in some capacity.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: And one of the things that I think this report pointed out as well is that individuals who have trouble affording, generally, things in their household or generally having struggles with their finances do find some relief through the savings that you provide. What does that look like moving forward? Are there partnerships that you can engage in or other ways to sort of spread the savings?

DOUG HIRSCH: The story's even bigger than that. And one of the things I'm so proud of is, as you said early on, we've saved Americans $30 billion. But think about what that means. The $30 billion, if you break it down, actually increases adherence. And that's fancy medical speak for meaning people just literally continue to fill their drugs.

And we found over 78 million prescriptions, thanks to GoodRx, people took them. Otherwise, they simply wouldn't have been able to afford them. And then, of course, when people take their meds, it leads to better outcomes, meaning-- actually in just one category if you look at high cholesterol, there were over 1,000 avoided hospitalizations and actually 500 avoided deaths that people had just by simply finding affordable drugs.

And then, as you said, Anjalee, that leads to-- I think it costs a low-income family America a minimum of $45 a month just eat healthy. And GoodRx saves an average expected cost of $60 per prescription. These are real numbers that make a real difference in America. And so we're just really, really proud of this impact. And we intend to continue growing it as we continue on.

ZACK GUZMAN: Sorry. When you look at the breakdown there as we were just showing there, Doug, where users are using GoodRx to kind of have savings on some of these medications, I mean, how important are those ones that you're seeing them use it for? Because when you think about the scale of some of these issues that Americans deal with, those are the ones where, you make small impacts, they actually add up to rather large savings when you look at it on a national scale.

DOUG HIRSCH: Well, we all know that when you show up in an ER, it's a $10,000 event, right? And so avoiding the ER is crucial to people, right? Meaning find them a doctor so they can talk to them without actually going to the ER because too many Americans actually use the ER as their doctor visit. And that's totally inefficient and unnecessary.

And then of course, keeping people on these prescriptions so they don't end up getting sicker, don't end up getting diabetes. I saw a stat recently. Like 1% of the US GDP is actually for dialysis, right? Well, let's stop people from getting in end-stage renal failure. Get those insulins cheaper. Let's get metformin and other simple drugs that keep people from getting diabetes or keep people who have diabetes from getting more sick, I mean, that's really what we're focused on is just trying to keep people healthy and make preventative care so inexpensive that any American can do it, and no American has any excuse to not be able to get that kind of care.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, what's the formula for this, Doug? As you mentioned, there is a lot of focus on emergency room visits and the cost of that. And telehealth has always been viewed as a way to filter out more costly visits that are unnecessary.

And there are others getting into this space. You do have competition with those who want to also help individuals with lower cost and access to drugs. But what, moving forward, separates you? Is there anything that, when it comes to being able to do more in this space, are there things that are not available yet for us to be able to make more progress?

DOUG HIRSCH: I mean, we want to focus on not just finding people's solutions when they are actually sick or when they need a medication or need care but actually anticipating. And so a lot of our focus these days is on continuing to engage with consumers and being able to reach out to them prior to them having an issue. Like, hey your pill bottle is going to be empty or, hey, you're overdue to see your annual visit to your primary care physician.

So we think that a more anticipatory health care system is really the best design, where we can reach out, make sure people are staying healthy, make sure people are doing all the proactive things they need to do. Hey, it's time for your flu shot. Hey, have you gotten your COVID vaccine, et cetera? Continuing to reach out and making sure that people are just being proactive about their care and, of course, proactive about their cost.

And so that's really what we spend our time focusing on. I do believe that our health care system can get there and not be so reactive and not just have more ER visits but really continue to anticipate health care needs and maintain health, as opposed to then trying to fix the problem once it develops.

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, that $30 billion savings certainly points to a move in the right direction. Doug Hirsch, co-CEO of GoodRx, good to talk to you today. And our thanks to Anjalee Khemlani as well.

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