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SingleCare CEO on the rising number of Americans turning to prescription drug delivery amid coronavirus crisis

SingleCare CEO and founder Rick Bates joined Yahoo Finance's Jen Rogers, Myles Udland, Andy Serwer, and Akiko Fujita to discuss the impact the novel coronavirus has had on Americans and their ability to get the perceptions drugs they need.

Video Transcript

JEN ROGERS: And I want to bring in right now Rick Bates. He's the founder and CEO of SingleCare. SingleCare is a prescription saving service that millions of Americans use to save money on their prescriptions. And Rick, you partner with a lot of bigger companies that we get our prescriptions from-- so CVS, Walmart, Walgreens. I remember at the very beginning of when people were thinking we might be needing to shelter in place, one of the first tips was to get about a three month supply of your medicine so that you would have that.

Now that we're beyond that point, what are you seeing in pharmacies? I mean, are people hoarding the drugs they need? Are all the drugs there that people need? How has it been just the last few weeks?

RICK BATES: Well, so you're absolutely right. In early to mid-march, there was an absolute ton of activity with people getting to the pharmacies and filling their prescriptions. There was a fair amount of fear and a lot of stockpiling. And we saw a significant increase in prescriptions filled. But then most recently with shelter in place throughout the country, folks have really been foregoing acute care needs, and more focused on chronic conditions. So there's been a little bit more of a stabilizing or moderation of volume of scripts filled.

And I do think that people who are concerned about potential shortages, it's smart for them to be aware and to stock pile for, you know, an extra month or two. And then we've seen the average day's supply of a prescription go up to that 90 day level. We've seen about a 20% increase in our 90 Day scripts.

AKIKO FUJITA: Rick, there's not a lot of talk recently about the concerns around patients who are not necessarily infected with COVID, but are-- for example, not going to the hospital because they're worried about catching it or they're not going to the doctor because they're worried about leaving their homes. I'm wondering how that has led to a boost for year business. We've spoken to a lot of telehealth people who say they've gotten huge demands on the back of this. What specifically have you seen?

RICK BATES: Yes, so it's been terrific for telehealth. And telehealth does fill a great need, especially around acute care challenges. And then they drive quite a bit of acute care prescription volume. So certainly, we have benefited from that for the cash paying customer. But at the same time, our business, because of shelter in place and people not going out and about as much-- really, what we've seen is this need to change our access points to more home delivery. And whether that's mail order, its drop off, or its curbside pickup-- and with the survey work we've done of our members and then the actual performance that we've seen, we've definitely seen an increase of about 35% of people who are at drive-through pharmacies, curbside pickup.

And each of the largest retail pharmacies have just done an amazing job adapting their models so that they can be more flexible and meet the needs of the consumers. And there still are a fair number that are going in-store, but I would say there's been a moderation of scripts filled over the last few weeks.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, Rick, what about people who can't afford to pay for their medicine? And, you know, that's a problem now-- maybe even a bigger problem next month or months to come. And maybe there'll be an expensive medicine that you can take to help ward off coronavirus. Have you discussed that with your team?

RICK BATES: Yes, we've spent quite a bit of time on the topic of affordability, and also, making sure that we're always publishing the most accurate, up-to-date cost of drugs with our retail pharmacy partners. And it is very concerning, especially, you know, that our is moving into a recession, we've got millions of Americans who will likely lose their health coverage. And the primary purpose of our business is to enable consumers access to the most affordable meds so that they can continue to stick to their drug regimen, stay healthy.

And then we obviously work on-- at a drug level, we do work closely with the pharmacies based on what needs may emerge. So, you know, we've already begun talking about how we can partner around access to testing as that becomes more available. And also, eventually, we're going to need a vaccine strategy. And that could look something very similar to flu shots.

MYLES UDLAND: You know, Rick, you mentioned the distribution of testing and things like that. Can you maybe give our viewers a sense of the kind of lift that we're talking about here when it comes to, you know, test and trace? And the number of, like, what's the logistical hurdle in getting not just a couple million-- tens of millions, hundreds of millions of tests out the door, even if they are, you know, simple spit in a tube, but it comes down a few minutes? I mean, I think people aren't really comprehending how big of an ask that is logistically for folks coming through the door, you know, whether it's your service getting things to customers. Do you have any way, maybe, to kind of put some scale on that people can understand?

RICK BATES: Well, I actually learned today that in order for us to get up to testing 10 million Americans every day, we would need a 70-fold increase in our testing capabilities. And that comes after we've decided which are the most reliable tests. I do think that the work that CVS and Walgreens have done to create testing sites and to stand them up as quickly as possible, you know, has really been a tremendous effort.

And while they're making great progress, we're a long ways away. I mean, my concern is that this is many months out from us. And that even then, it will be imperfect. So we're going to have real challenges here executing against this, especially as it's essential for us to have accurate testing if we're really going to reopen the economy the way that we need to.

JEN ROGERS: And Rick, do you have any concerns over the supply chain for people getting their drugs? Because pharmacists are really on the front lines here. You know, when I got to CVS and talk to my pharmacist, if I'm sick, there are issues there. Do you have any concerns about the supply chain?

RICK BATES: So I definitely have some concerns. First, I would absolutely agree that pharmacists are on the front line and they've just done a tremendous job, and are working tirelessly, especially because they do have a significant demand on oftentimes reduced hours. But in terms of potential shortages, I worry mostly about diabetics and folks with lupus and hydroxychloroquine needs. Because, you know, a drug like hydroxychloroquine, which we saw a 200% increase of prescriptions filled in the month of March, it's not proven to be totally effective. And we have an existing population of people who are battling diseases who must continue to have access to that drug.

And I know that the government's working hard on ensuring there is an adequate supply and that they're pushing the drugs to the hospitals directly as well for patients in need, but this is this gets back to the earlier point of I think anybody who has a serious health condition needs to think ahead. Stay aware of the drugs that they're on. And then make sure they have at least an additional 30 days supply on hand.

JEN ROGERS: Rick Bates, founder and CEO of COVID. Thank you so much for taking the time to walk us through so many of the issues that are being confronted in your industry.

RICK BATES: Thank you.

JEN ROGERS: Thank you.