The next time you’re faced with a bad breakout over-the-counter meds won’t fix or tight on time to renew your birth control pills, take a deep breath—your prescription could be on its way to your home with just a few taps on your smartphone.
Felix, a new telemedicine company in Canada, is making it easier to get prescriptions for common lifestyle drugs: acne, birth control, erectile dysfunction, and male hair loss. The process is simple—head to felixforyou.ca, choose the medication you’re interested in, and complete a short questionnaire. A certified doctor will review it, and if you’re eligible, Felix will fill and ship the prescription directly to you—no doctor, clinic or pharmacy visit needed.
But—can a doctor who doesn’t have access to you, physically, or your medical history safely prescribe a medication to you? I chatted with CEO and founder of Felix, Kyle Zien, to get all your questions answered.
Is it safe to get a prescription without an in-person doctor visit?
With Felix, yes. The company follows Ontario and British Columbia’s healthcare laws and regulations (currently, Felix is only available in Ontario and B.C.) to make this process completely safe. “We chose to concentrate on birth control, erectile dysfunction, acne, and hair loss because these categories lend themselves very well to telemedicine,” says Zien. “This means that an in-person visit is really not required from a medical perspective.” Instead, a consultation is completed through the company website, it is reviewed by a licensed healthcare practitioner, and if a medication is prescribed, it’s filled by a registered pharmacist.
Aside from not having to see a doctor, what makes this process convenient?
Felix is making the pharmacy pick-up less of a hassle—by eliminating it altogether, says Zien. The medication is delivered directly to you. There’s also the option to subscribe to auto-refills, which is helpful since all the medications Felix offers are intended for recurring use.
Am I actually able to get the best prescription for me without having an in-person appointment?
The assessment Felix has users complete is as thorough as a chat you’d have with your doctor at an appointment. For example, in the assessment for birth control pills, users are asked if they have ever gotten an aura headache from birth control pills in the past. If answered yes, users are automatically denied a prescription since “medications that contain estrogen are not recommended for patients who experience migraines with auras,” says a pop-up on the website, which also includes a list of alternative contraceptives. For the acne assessment, users are asked to upload photos of their skin for the doctor to review. This way, the healthcare practitioner can accurately determine if the topical treatment will be effective for the type of acne the patient has.
What type of birth control can I be prescribed?
“We offer all oral-based birth control—the most commonly used in Canada,” says Zien. But if you don’t see what you’re looking for, you can request it from the doctor. Not sure which one’s right for you? The doctor can suggest one for you. “We are about to start supporting more versions of birth control like NuvaRing and the patch Evra,” says Zien. “Our goal is to give the same variety and the same selection you’d get at any pharmacy.”
What type of acne treatment can I be prescribed?
At the moment, Felix only offers the topical treatment Tretinoin—but it’s one of the most popular and effective acne treatments today. “It’s a first line of defense for someone who wants to deal with mild acne issues,” says Zien. “We’re expanding our acne offering, but typically, Tretinoin is the topical that dermatologists recommend as a starting point.”
Why may I be denied these medications?
About 10 to 15 percent of users are denied medications, and that would be due to a variety of health reasons, like drug interaction, says Zien. “The doctor you do your consultation with is making the decision, and that doctor is going to make the same decision as they would at a traditional in-person visit,” says Zien.
Is it possible to chat with the doctor?
There are open fields in the assessment where you can write your questions for the physician. They can respond to it, and ask you any questions they may have regarding your assessment, through the messaging platform built into the website. The chat can be in real-time or it can be asynchronous. “Once the user gets through their online visit and submits their assessment for review, our physicians typically review those requests within an hour or two,” says Zien. This is when the interaction can take place, and both parties can have their questions answered. If the doctor is satisfied, they can prescribe the medication.
Is this covered by insurance?
Although the $40 consultation fee for the assessment is not covered, the prescription is valid for one year. And medication can be covered with the user’s private insurance plan or provincial health insurance plans. What’s more, the Felix website has some “built-in logic” that tells users if they may qualify for any provincial coverage.
Also, Felix waives the consultation fee if a prescription request is denied, says Zien.
The assessment collects a lot of personal health info—who has access to this?
“The personal information gathered is encrypted and only visible between the user and the Felix physician—not even the Felix team can see it,” says Zien. “Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t see any personal health information.”
Do the doctors suggest natural remedies or lifestyle choices before prescribing the topical cream for acne?
The assessment includes lifestyle questions, including which drugs, vitamins and supplements the user is currently taking. The doctor reviews this, and sometimes advises the user to have a conversation with their family care provider, says Zien. “We also ask about stress, and address that as a cause where applicable,” adds Dr. Kelly Anderson, medical director at Felix.
Do the doctors check up on patients?
“All Felix users have the opportunity to reconnect with the physician who prescribed their medication with follow-up questions,” says Zien. What’s more, Felix provides access to the pharmacy available five days a week, from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM EST, and users are welcome to call the pharmacy to ask questions about the medications their taking. To help eliminate questions after taking the medication, users are given a treatment plan in the dashboard of their Felix profile where the physician provides instructions on when to use the medication and when to evaluate if it’s working or not, says Zien.
What other conditions will Felix be offering medications for in the future?
The Felix team is excited to help people manage symptoms associated with cold sores and herpes. “They affect a large percentage of the population, and there is no cure, so it’s something you can only really treat with effective medication,” says Zien. The cold sores/herpes medication that will be prescribed, if the user is eligible, is valacyclovir. It’s an antiviral treatment that is to be used at the first sign of an outbreak (the tingling) to shorten the duration, minimize the severity of symptoms, and speed up healing.
Next, learn why some women are ditching the pill in favour of birth control apps to prevent pregnancy.