A buzzy startup is shaking up men’s health by prescribing generic Viagra online. But a move to relax guidelines has raised concerns among some of its doctor partners.

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A buzzy startup is shaking up men’s health by prescribing generic Viagra online. But a move to relax guidelines has raised concerns among some of its doctor partners.

Imagine if you could get a prescription drug for a medical condition online without traveling to see a doctor, or even speaking with one.

That’s the promise behind the trendy men’s-health startup Hims, which says its online platform is making medical care more available for men with stigmatized health issues such as impotence and hair loss.

You’ve probably seen the splashy ads featuring stylized eggplants and cacti (a winking nod to Hims’ work in erectile dysfunction), and even the rapper Snoop Dogg. With these high-profile campaigns, the San Francisco telemedicine startup has vaulted to prominence, and it is said to be nearing a $1 billion valuation.

But Hims’ approach triggered concerns among some doctors working with the company after the startup led an effort to expand the number of patients whom physicians could treat with generic Viagra online, according to secret messages among clinicians and a person familiar with the matter.

The clinicians are employed by Hims’ independent medical partner, an organization called Bailey Health. But the move prompted worries among some doctors that Hims might be pressuring them to write more prescriptions in a more lenient manner. Erectile dysfunction can also be a sign of more concerning health conditions, which may not be diagnosed or treated in an online visit, according to an outside expert.

This story is based on secret messages among clinicians and internal documents reviewed by Business Insider, as well as conversations with current and former Bailey Health doctors. Business Insider also spoke with Melissa Baird, Hims’ chief product and operations officer, and Dr. Peter Stahl, a Hims medical consultant. Requests for comment from Bailey Health were not returned by two people there.

Hims said in a statement that “this narrative is patently false” and that the level of patient care and safety on its platform was “best in class.” Hims also emphasized the distinct and separate status of Bailey Health.

“Any claims that are made to the contrary are categorically false, and intentionally aim to undermine the credibility of safe, effective protocols set forth in telemedicine and the medical community at large,” the statement said. “Hims has always made clear to physicians that each physician must prescribe according to his or her own, independent clinical judgement and that the safety of patients is paramount. There are no penalties or negative repercussions of any kind for any physician based upon their prescribing rates.”

The concerns raised at Hims provide a unique window into the issues that may crop up as more medical-care services move online and companies toe the line between e-commerce and medicine, serving patients who are also customers.

Read Business Insider’s full story on Hims, available exclusively to BI Prime members.

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