NowRx Opens Same-Day Prescription Deliveries to LA Residents

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

NowRx

San Fernando Valley residents can now get medications delivered to their door hours after getting a prescription.

California-based pharmacy startup NowRx announced it opened a new fulfillment center in Van Nuys to offer those in the area free, same-day delivery on prescriptions. The service uses robots and AI to fill prescriptions and commercial fulfillment space instead of retail space.


It follows a pandemic-fueled trend of home deliveries. Instacart, after struggling to turn a profit in 2019, did so for the first time during the pandemic. Amazon Pharmacy pushed into the drug-delivery space in November, two years after acquiring PillPack, and pharmacy delivery startup Medly Pharmacy raised $120 million during the pandemic, according to Pitchbook.

But the need for efficiencies in pharmacy came long before the pandemic — robotic pill-packers, home delivery, and e-prescribing have helped pharmacies keep costs down and provide faster service to more people. Most pharmacies often provide prescriptions at razor-thin margins (which is why independent pharmacies struggle and Walgreens counts on purchases of grocery items to offset the cost).

There are some benefits to this on the patient side as well. Most people live within five miles of a pharmacy, but the lack of access to public transportation or time to stand in line means some people delay getting their prescriptions, or forgo it altogether.

"A lot of people in our communities, they end up not getting their prescription in a timely manner," said NowRx CEO Cary Breese. "And that can lead to avoidable hospitalizations and other things."

The tech-enabled company can fill bottles within 30 seconds, and drivers can deliver prescriptions in a matter of two to three hours in some cities, including Los Angeles, Calabasas and Studio City.

NowRx CEO Cary BreeseNowRx CEO Cary Breese

But the process has some wondering if pharmacists' expertise is getting left behind — and, with it, patient safety — as they're now able to get medications with little or no interaction with medical experts.

"If pharmacy is just delivering a product, then boy, Amazon should take over," joked Steve Chen, associate dean of clinical affairs at the USC school of pharmacy.

But while some may think pharmacies are glorified fulfillment centers, the process of becoming a pharmacist is a long, arduous road that requires an undergraduate degree, and then four more years of graduate study to complete a doctorate in pharmacy.

It's not for nothing. Around 8,000 people die from medication errors every year, and caring for patients who deal with medication-related complications cost the health care system $40 billion annually, according to a February 2021 study in the academic research journal StatPearls. Many of those issues stem from bad handwriting, or unclear communication around how to take those drugs.

"Medication errors may be due to human errors, but it often results from a flawed system with inadequate backup to detect mistakes," researchers wrote.

Breese argues pharmacists at NowRx have more time to consult with patients since they aren't bogged down with the volume of fulfillment work.

"We feel like that, in the old traditional pharmacy model, that they actually are limited in how much time they can spend with patients."

NowRx allows people to contact their pharmacists through an app if they need consultation on drug doses or when to take their medication, and the company will soon be allowing in-app video calls. It's part of their larger venture into telehealth.

As startups like NowRx add digital marketplaces to their slew of services, Chen says innovation in the pharmacy industry should prioritize medication management services, such as identifying drug dosing issues or potential drug addictions.

"At the end of the day you can skip on drugs, you can try to limit the amount or the cost of drugs for the patients you're caring for," Chen said. "But if they're not getting the right medications for their disease states, and they're at risk for heart attacks, strokes, all these negative outcomes from uncontrolled chronic disease, that cost the health system a heck of a lot more money than the medications."

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Cadence

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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