It’s hard to miss the barrage of ads for new, anti-anxiety startups Hims and Kick Health. But I still had a lot of questions. Are these reputable companies offering legit medicine? How are they able to prescribe anti-anxiety beta-blockers online? How does their pricing compare?
What is the anti-anxiety medicine that Kick Health and Hims are offering?
Both of these companies offer Propranolol. Propranolol is a beta blocker – a type of medication that works by blocking the beta receptors found in your heart, lungs and arteries. It is not a drug that changes how your brain processes anxiety or fear. Instead it simply works to reduce the physical effects of fear in your body.
Propranolol is prescribed off-label for anti-anxiety. Off-label means that the drug is prescribed for a condition different than the one that the FDA approved it for. Don’t freak out though — one in five prescriptions written are for off-label use, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services.
It works differently than drugs you might know by name, such as Xanax (alprazolam, a benzodiazepine) or Zoloft (sertraline, an SSRI). Both are popular medicines to treat anxiety. Xanax and Zoloft target the brain and the central nervous system, blocking (or reducing) feelings of panic. Propranolol targets the heart, reducing the physical effects of anxiety. It is specifically focused on two types of anxiety: performance anxiety and social anxiety.
These types of stress ramp up the body’s production of adrenaline and similar fight-or-flight hormones. According to the University of Utah, these hormones make your heart beat faster, push your blood to parts of the body you need during a fight, and downshift less important parts into a maintenance mode. Adrenaline is a useful hormone – especially for your great-great-great-granddaddy who needed it to flee from a hungry tiger. In this case it’s a pretty good idea to have your heart rate increase and for your stomach to stop using so much blood to digest that mastodon burger. But obviously the utility of a sudden adrenaline rush before delivering a speech is less obvious.
Propranolol blocks the stress hormones that cause sweaty palms, your heart feeling like it’s going to pop out of your chest because it’s beating so fast, shaking hands and voice, etc. Since it is attacking the physical effects of stress, it should make you feel calmer and make it easier for you to perform the task at hand. It doesn’t make your brain feel less stressed how a Xanax would, but successful patients have found that reducing the physical symptoms helps them perform better.
And, it’s a widely used drug to treat stress. According to Hims there are more than 15 million prescriptions for propranolol in the US alone, making it an incredibly popular medication. Mainly prescribed for heart conditions, heart conditions, such as irregular heart rate or high blood pressure. Most people who are prescribed propranolol use it for this purpose.
Why do Hims and Kick Health prescribe Propranolol instead of Xanax or Valium?
Hims’ and Kick’s online doctors will conduct an online consultation and prescribe Propranolol, not drugs specifically developed and marketed for anti-anxiety like Xanax or Valium. Why? Here is what the companies have to say:
Propranolol does not alter brain chemistry.
Unlike Xanax and Valium, the drug Hims and Kick prescribe affects stress’ impact on the heart, hand tremors, and the physical feelings of stress. Benzodiazepines like Xanax reduce anxiety by targeting parts of the brain and central nervous system, and they may sometimes cause mental slowing of fuzziness that you wouldn’t want before a big event.
Propranolol is not physically addictive.
Benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax have a high risk of causing physical addiction. Although it’s possible to abuse propranolol and other beta blockers, these drugs aren’t physically addictive (although there is certainly a chance that you could come to depend on them).
Propranolol works for short-term, event-based anxiety.
Because Propranolol is relatively fast acting, and usually only derives any impact for 12 hours or less, it is well designed for event-based anxiety like a big speech, performance, or meeting.
Hims and Kick are basically saying that this drug is appropriate for normal performance or event-based anxiety, and not intended to be a long-term treatment people with chronic anxiety disorders.
How do you use anxiety meds from Kick Health or Hims?
The drug is taken an hour before the upcoming stressful event. Depending on the dose, you’ll feel relief for 12 hours, although lower doses can provide help for a shorter period of time (and possibly less of the effects).
Propranolol is usually well tolerated by those who take it, especially at the low doses these companies will prescribe for anxiety. There are some side effects for some people. Some people who start propranolol feel tired or lightheaded when they first start taking it. Other common, not serious side effects, include nausea and stomach problems, decreased sex drive, insomnia or tired feeling. The companies will provide a list of side effects, and you should take them seriously if you feel them. Another important note is that you should not take alcohol while using Propranolol – this could be pretty serious, so don’t do it!
You can ask about side effects in the online doctor’s visit as well. And you’ll fill out a health questionnaire during the online visit – make sure you are accurate (which is pretty low stress, given that it’s just an online form) – you want to make sure the doctors know all about your health in case there is something in your medical history that might not make you a good candidate for a prescription.
Kick vs Hims: Which anti-anxiety treatment is right for you, and how much do they cost?
Given that they are offering the same medicine, and both have well-developed online doctor visits, one of the most important considerations is cost. The following table breaks down pricing differences between Hims and Kick Health.
Hims vs Kick: Anti-Anxiety Pill Pricing Comparison
|Doctor Visit Cost||$5||$40|
|Cost per Shipment||$25||$59|
|Doses per Shipment||5||24|
|Price per Mg||$0.30||$0.41|
|Intro Discount||First shipment for just $5!||–|
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Hims and Kick have a similar pricing structure, they are going to charge you to have the online doctor’s visit, and then charge you a fee to ship the medicine to you.
Kick offers two different pricing options – $59 for 24 doses (10mg), or $79 for 48 doses (10mg). Both require a $40 doctor’s fee for the first purchase as well.
Hims and Hers Propranolol options have a much lower priced doctor’s visit of just $5, and charge $25 for 5 doses (20mg). They also offer a nice introductory discount: pay just $5 for your first month’s shipment!
A key difference between the two options is that Hims is a monthly subscription, meaning they will send you medicine every month. With Kick, you only order as needed. On the plus side, the subscription will help keep you from running out of medicine. On the other hand, you’ll need to cancel if you don’t want to continue the treatment. Kick ships a fairly large number of pills that you can use as you (and your doctor) deem appropriate.
How does delivery work?
Both Kick and Hims will ship your prescriptions to you in discrete, nondescript packaging. So you won’t feel embarrassed at the package left at your door. And the Propranolol comes in small, individual pouches so you can easily and discretely take them with you in your pockets, purse or bag. Here are a couple of pictures of the little medicine pouches from Kick and Hims.
What is a doctor’s visit like with Hims or Kick?
The “telemedicine” doctors visits with both of these companies is pretty simple and straightforward – and not at all stressful. In most states you don’t even have to talk with a physician. All of the interaction is done online through easy to understand forms. It is important that you answer the questions honestly and carefully, as you want the doctor reviewing your case to have all the information they need to make an informed prescription.
You are going to click through a series of online forms, answering questions about your medical history, conditions and symptoms. There is also a part where you’ll be entering your contact info, and snapping a photo of yourself and your driver’s license – this is to prove to the doctor that you are who you say you are (sounds like this is a regulatory requirement for telemedicine.)
- You’ll give Kick your name and the state that you live in
- Along the way here you are also consenting to do a telemedicine visit, not a big deal
- Next they ask for your contact info. The top of this form says that the online visit will take about 10 minutes – we found this to be true, it took about this long to run through the process
- The following form asks you to list any medical conditions:
- If you select “yes”, you’ll get a text box to provide more detail.
- You’ll also need to let them know if you have any allergies or major reactions to medicines
- Now you get to some questions about your symptoms and how you feel about your anxiety
- This next form has you check boxes to declare how anxiety has affected you
- Then come several more forms asking about your history with various medical conditions
- This part was a little tricky – you need to know your blood pressure
- Thankfully, I’ve had this done in the recent past and knew the answer
- You’ll need to know your systolic and diastolic readings (normal are around 115 over 75)
- It’s important that you answer this next form honesty; they ask questions on your drinking and drug use
- It’s a little less stressful to answer these particular questions in the online form, I think, vs having to talk about it in person with your primary care physician. That part is nice!
- Next, you’re asked if you worry about depression or mood
- The next two forms require you to use your computer’s camera – again, this is likely a regulatory requirement for telemedicine. No big deal. Just requires you to take a photo of yourself using the camera on your computer, and snap a pic of your drivers license
- I was surprised, but they ask how you’d like to get your treatment – via online pharmacy or at a pick up pharmacy
- I had assumed Kick would ship the medicine to you, but didn’t realize that they would also just write you a prescription that you can take anywhere if you prefer.
- Choose your pricing plan
As of May 2019, when we wrote this review of Kick, Kick’s pricing was:
- $59 for 24 10mg tablets or
- $79 for 48 10mg tablets
- Plus the $40 doctor’s visit fee
- Enter your credit card information after you’ve picked a price
- Finally, the doctor will review your case and prescribe the medicine if you are a good candidate
Overall, it’s a simple process. The trickiest part, in my opinion, is having an accurate and recent blood pressure reading handy.
Which should you choose, Hims or Kick for your anti-anxiety medicine?
Both companies are good options, providing low-stress online doctor visits and prescriptions. Both provide the same generic medicine for performance anxiety, Propranolol. Both ship to your house and package anti-anxiety pills in easy to carry little pouches, so you can have them on deck whenever needed.
However, Hims does beat Kick on pricing. At 30 cents a dose, including the cost of the doctor’s visit, it’s easier to stomach. Additionally, the 8x lower cost of a doctor’s visit ($5 vs Kick’s $40) is considerable, and the heavily discounted first box (only $5 vs. $25 thereafter) is a strong incentive to get started with Hims. Compare that to $99 (all-in) for your first shipment from Kick. At the moment, we recommend Hims (or Hers, their sister site for women).
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That said — if you like to pick up your prescriptions at your local pharmacy, hate subscription services, or only need 10mg and can’t stand the thought of cutting your propranolol pills in half, Kick is great option! They make it easy to get stash of pills to combat performance anxiety without any ongoing commitment whatsoever.
One parting thought
Hims (or Hers) and Kick aren’t the only two anti-anxiety med providers online. To fully understand your options, you may want to further research other emerging brands in the space. Another key advantage of Hims / Hers over Kick is that they offer many other online prescription medications beyond just performance anxiety treatment, which is convenient. Some of the ailments they sell treatments for include, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, acne, anti-aging, and more!
We recently compared Hims’ hair loss pills to other top online providers like Roman and Keeps. Check it out if you’re interested in learning about the leading players in that space!