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A redesigned pharmacy, PillPack gains traction

High customer satisfaction, $50 million in funding position company for growth

August 7, 2015

PillPack CEO Elliot Cohen, MBA '13

PillPack CEO and co-founder Elliot Cohen, MBA '13

PillPack, an online pharmacy co-founded by MIT Sloan alumnus Elliot Cohen, is making moves in the industry, shipping more than a million pre-sorted prescription packages since its February 2014 launch.

The core idea of the company’s business is that customers can fill prescriptions online. The medications arrive by mail in pre-sorted packages, alleviating customers’ daily headache of sorting out, scheduling, and refilling prescription medications.

Shipments are every two weeks, sorted into packets with clear instructions on when they are to be taken. The packets are attached to an adhesive sheet and shipped via mail.

While 85 percent of Americans use retail pharmacies, Cohen, the company’s CTO, and TJ Parker, the company’s CEO, saw a need for a much-improved end-to-end system for shipping, sorting, and refilling and, with it, a burgeoning untapped marketplace.

“It’s getting all the pills into the right packet rather than shipping them in 10 pill bottles that you have to deal with yourself,” Cohen, MBA ’13, says. “We also saw that the problem in taking and managing medication is not a single thing. There wasn’t a missing technological innovation. What was missing was a lot of small touch points.”

PillPack shipmentA PillPack shipment

These touch points, he explains, are simple things like providing color pill images and clear print fonts. PillPack also gives its customers information about any potential risks in combining drugs and dosages. Customers pay nothing additional for these services—they only pay their standard 30-day co-pays.

Cohen and Parker first met in 2010 while both were working on the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition. Parker, then a student at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, had already been thinking about a better and simpler user experience.

In 2012, the pair won the top prize at an MIT Hacking Medicine hackathon and was accepted into Techstars’ Boston startup accelerator in 2013. They raised $3.5 million and leased space for a pharmacy in New Hampshire. There, PillPack hired a group of pharmacists and is also employing robot technology to pick and sort drugs.

The company, based in Somerville, Mass., launched in February 2014. In June of this year, it announced $50 million in venture funding. It recently released a medication reminder app for iOS and Apple Watch.

Cohen says the company has shipped more than a million pill packs, but the number he’s more excited about is the—very high—80 score that PillPack recently received from Net Promoter, a widely recognized measure of companies’ customer loyalty.

“That’s the number we pay the most attention to and are the most proud of,” he says, “because it means that we really are achieving that goal of making this more delightful and more simple.”