Low-Cost Birth Control By Mail: Signed, Sealed, Delivered, It’s Yours

Women in the tech start-up world are revolutionizing women’s healthcare—and at the forefront of the “FemTech” movement are Pandia Health and its co-founder, Dr. Sophia Yen.

While Yen has known she wanted to be in the medical field since the fourth grade, it wasn’t until she was a teenager that she decided she wanted to focus on women’s reproductive health. “It was an outrage,” Yen tells Ms., “that someone was going to tell me what was going to happen in my uterus.”

Now a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Stanford School of Medicine and a physician at Stanford’s Center for Adolescent Health, Yen’s latest venture offers women across California the opportunity to access birth control by mail discreetly delivered every month. Those with an existing birth control prescription are eligible for free delivery, and new prescriptions are available over the phone for $39 a year.

Bottom line: What Yen no more trips to the pharmacy. Recently, Yen took the time to chat with Ms. about Pandia and her foray into entrepreneurship, women in tech, and how to navigate the emerging TeleHealth landscape.

As a physician, you do a lot of work with adolescents and teens. How has that experience impacted your ideas about the necessity of reproductive care and access to contraception?

Founding Pandia, I realized that one of the top reasons that people don’t take their birth control is that they don’t have it at hand. So, we decided to deliver birth control to people’s homes…Running the business, we found that 50% of people who respond to “free birth control delivery” ads needed a prescription: either [theirs had] run out or expired, or they never had a written prescription, to begin with. We realized that I’m an MD and I can write prescriptions! [There’s] also a perfect storm of laws/regulations. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) said in 2012, and again in 2016, that OCP [oral contraceptive pills] should be over the counter and three states let pharmacists write birth control prescriptions… so we took the protocol from CA – which is approved by the ACOG of CA, the Medical Board of CA, the Pharmacy Board of CA and improved it and are using that as part of our business model.

 In what ways do you think the start up business model can be used to help further advance women and feminist causes?

Startups are just another form of business, and we need more women entrepreneurs to open companies that help women! There are really not many startups in the FemTech area, or they are run by men, who are well intentioned [but don’t] understand the issue personally [like women].

Do you hope to expand Pandia nationwide?

Absolutely. We are currently only in CA, but will be in 7 more states, Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia, by the end of 2017 and our aim is to be in as many states as possible by the end of 2019.

As telemedicine becomes a more popular healthcare option, what are some things you would like women looking into this method of care to keep in mind?

People need to look at the [telemedicine] companies they choose. Look at the telemedicine providers, [and consider] who are their doctors? Where did they attend medical school and where did they do their residency? Pandia is about service and doing good and making sure no one runs out of birth control on our watch.

Watch Pandia Health’s video here to learn more about Emergency Contraception options. For more information, visit Pandia Health’s website. 

ms-headshotLauren Young is an Editorial Intern at Ms. She has a Master’s Degree in European and Russian Studies from Yale University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Russian Civilization from Smith College. Follow her on @laurensayoung.

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  1. Claudia Huarcaya says:

    This article about Dr. Sophia Yen being involved and co-founder of Pandia Health is impressive and admirable. I am glad this brilliant woman is part of an effective and rapid way to help her patients. Dr. Yen’s Pandia Health offers women across California the opportunity to access birth control by mail discreetly delivered every month. Reproductive health and reproductive rights is crucial for a woman. According to the Center of Reproductive Rights, “when a woman is denied her reproductive –when she is denied obstretic care, birth control, the facts about reproductive health, or safe abortion… she is denied means to direct her own life, protect her health, and exercise her human rights.” This article was absolutely perfect for chapter 3, the UNFPA, says that there are at least 200 million women that want to plan their families or space their children, but lack access to safe and effective contraception. I believe Dr. Yen’s Pandia health is revolutionary because women who are already prescribed with birth control are eligible for free delivery, and new prescriptions are available over the phone for $39 a year. The price itself is amazing for low income young teens and women (students, part-time workers). What I find fascinating and inspiring is that Dr. Yen’s Pandia Health will be more in 7 more states. Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio and Virginia by the end of 2017 and he aim is to expand to more states by the end 0f 2019. I believe that with this FemTech we can achieve bigger wins in the reproductive health and reproductive rights around the world that can decrease maternal mortality in developing countries. It is essential for a woman’s body to be cared and protected from unwanted births. Keep up the good work Dr. Yen and thank you!

  2. Jobastien Dolcine says:

    According to the UNFPA, 2009b, reproductive health conditions are the leading cause of death and illness in women of childbearing age worldwide. In many countries, women are usually facing many difficulties when it comes to their reproductive rights. Beside the fact that they do not have the right to reproductive health care, they do not have the right to reproductive self-determination as well. For instance, in the United States, women are usually not able to get access to contraceptive methods without a prescription. This regulation usually puts women in a situation where unintended pregnancies are inevitable. By offering women across California the opportunity to access birth control by mail discreetly delivered every month, Doctor Yen is helping them to avoid the burden of having many children in really close succession. Therefore, they will be able to regulate their fertility. In addition, this program will substantially decreases the rate of maternal morbidity, mortality and abortion in the State of California. This program will be very beneficial for low income families. If we are looking at the health care system barriers in the United States in general, we can see that most of the time low income families cannot afford insurance coverage or money to pay for contraceptive drugs. Thus, it will be a great occasion for them to get access to these drugs with a cost of $39.00 a year. According to the UNFPA, 2009b, at least 200 million women want to plan their families or space their children, but lack access to safe and effective contraception. For that reason, it is time for the world to see women’s reproductive rights issues as critical because of the intimate relationship between women’s reproductive choice and their status, power, economic situation and health. If all women agree that reliable and safe contraceptives are essential to women health and are important reproductive rights, all women should join efforts together to overthrow all the systemic regulations that are preventing them from getting birth control.

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