Multiply Labs has designed what it claims to be the “first-ever personalized supplement pill.” Will it ultimately wipe out pharmacy’s supplement market share? The short answer is no, at least not for the time being.
 
The Multiply Pill has the option for customization, but with only 12 options broken into 3 categories: vitamins, minerals, and others. That may not sound like enough supply compared with the gluttony of options at your average pharmacy. But, to the company’s credit, it provided between 4 and 6 studies to go along with each supplement. Is that truly enough to prove “extensive peer-reviewed research,” or is this claim misleading?
 
The most interesting feature of the product has to be its unique time-release technology. Although pharmacokinetics wasn’t my favorite subject in school, different pharmacokinetic strategies can lead to more favorable adherence. Given that lack of adherence has led to massive health care cost inflation, any technology that can improve adherence without altering other outcomes (safety, cost, and so on) is practically a golden ticket. The company’s buzzwords addressing pharmacokinetics include “material we use,” “3D printing technology,” and “a robotic system” to fill the customized capsules.
 
When designing your pill, you can choose among health, energy, and exercise after entering some basic information. The following options include assistance personalizing, recommended supplements, or a manual selection. Quantities for the manual selection begin at 100% of daily values and can be decreased. Selecting between immediate and delayed release is the final option for each supplement in the capsule.
 
An additional service I believe is necessary for patients would be scheduled lab readings. Patients may start at a lower dose and need more, or the daily dose could be too high based on their blood levels. Guaranteeing a once-daily pill that leads to rapid life-changing results isn’t an ethical or viable solution that health care companies should be promoting.
 
This isn’t the first direct-to-consumer supplement product, as loads of brands have been selling supplements online without coming close to wiping out stock at pharmacies. Patients who buy online may be more adept at researching and deciding what they need without the counsel of a health care professional. This is another polarizing topic in health care: on one hand, we want our patients to take responsibility for their health; but, on the other, we want them to discuss all their options with us. How can we find a happy medium?
 
Pharmacists pride themselves on being the most accessible member of the health care team—but when fill times are tracked and claims aren’t running through, responding to patient inquiries may be less of a priority. Less is known (due to lacking and inconclusive studies) and less is taught about nonprescription medications. This can potentially drive away health care professionals from even considering a supplement recommendation.
 
Customized search results and targeted marketing are constant reminders of the data-driven and technical world we live in these days. Pharmacies that strive to give their patients a customized and genuine shopping experience are less likely to lose market share. Patients looking for supplements will most likely be satisfied with pharmacies that can special order, comprehensively counsel, or provide other special services that cater to individual needs.
 
Recently, I visited a pharmacy in my hometown to find an iPad in front of the store programmed with a quick survey that spit out supplement recommendations while barely knowing anything about me. This could be considered either entrepreneurial or irresponsible. Even with prescription margins growing tighter, imagine a pharmacy with an actual pharmacist who has immediate access to health care records, waiting to counsel patients at the front of the store. Based on the patients’ recommended supplements, the pharmacy could even partner with Multiply Labs to set patients up with the right Multiply Pill.
 
Before pharmacy views Multiply Labs as competition, what value can we propose to these kind of companies to build partnerships? Even if they’re not open to that, what services can be improved for patients at community pharmacies?
 
As a profession let’s embrace innovation and see what ways we can improve the patient experience to encourage a brighter future for health care.