Raleigh’s Base Healthcare is looking to transform men’s health by combining two medical buzzwords into one healthcare solution: testosterone and telehealth.
Base Healthcare, which is a subsidiary of Raleigh’s Marius Pharmaceuticals, launched at the end of last week and is headed by CEO Shalin Shah. Their products include Kyzatrex, an FDA-approved oral therapy that delivers testosterone to men, and Base Healthcare, a mobile app and telehealth program that looks to monitor changes in vitals and overall health upon administration of the therapy.
If the word “testosterone” makes you think of steroid-using athletes or erectile dysfunction, you’re not alone. But referencing a growing body of research, Shah said the benefits of testosterone extend far beyond the gym or the bedroom. Some 20 million men in the U.S. are estimated to suffer from low testosterone (hypogonadism), though 90 percent don’t even know it—but may experience a number of the associated symptoms.
“If the molecule had a different name, it would probably be the most famous molecule in the world because of what it affects,” Shah said. “There’s an androgen receptor on every organ in your body, and testosterone is an androgen. Historically, it has a label as a steroid for muscle building or bodybuilding. But muscles are important in a lot of things beyond bodybuilding, and it also affects a lot of neurological aspects, cardiovascular aspects; it’s very much related to inflammation.”
Testosterone can increase bone density, which can be crucial in preventing osteoporosis, and it can prevent muscle wasting. In studies, testosterone has even been seen to help prevent progression from pre-diabetic into diabetic.
Focus, mood, energy level and even sleep can all be affected by testosterone, but the molecule also holds physiological benefits. Base Healthcare’s pillars—stress, sleep, exercise, nutrition, and testosterone— reflect a comprehensive vision for health.
A comprehensive, future-facing hormone therapy like Kyzatrex requires a comprehensive distribution and monitoring system. That’s why alongside the first visit that patients have with Base Healthcare’s telehealth platform, they take a blood test to see if testosterone would be a good fit for them.
Base Healthcare is not only trying to change how testosterone is viewed in medicine, but also aiming to change telehealth. It’s doing to latter with a platform that engages users daily through a mobile app dashboard that includes daily symptom surveys, an app-based vital scan and an industry-first body-scan technology that packs the power of a bone density scan within 1% of a medical-grade DEXA X-ray scan into a smartphone.
Shah knows that when people think “telehealth”, they also think “touch-and-go.” Base Healthcare is looking to do the exact opposite—think Apple Health or FitBit in the palm of your hands, plus novel scanning technology and digital patient care.
“We want to track many things: How are they doing? Are their symptoms being relieved?” Shah said. “And the other parameters that we see in testosterone therapy, are they being improved? Are you seeing a weight reduction? Are you seeing inflammation reduction, better cholesterol levels—there’s so many things that a patient should really be tracking but we don’t live in a society that engages the patient, it engages insurance companies and doctors. Patients just get told what to do, but they don’t really feel part of their journey. And I think they should be.”
The program is relatively low in cost: an initial appointment including bloodwork is $149, and users pay a $159 monthly subscription fee that includes testosterone supply and membership to “Base Healthcare,” which includes all the app’s tools and regular blood work. At a traditional clinic, testosterone treatment alone can cost upwards of $300 a month, Shah said, and that therapy would traditionally be administered via a shot instead of a pill.
While patients opting into the app’s health-tracking features is completely optional, Shah believes that buy-in to products like Apple Watches is indicative of a growing market for data-driven health journeys. Testosterone plays just one part in a comprehensive, data-informed view of health.
“Data empowers people,” Shah sad. “We’ve seen that explosion over the last 20 years. I think there’s a factor which then embeds this healthier lifestyle, once you see the data in progress. That’s why we think it’s extremely important and useful to the patients who opt in.”
A family affair
Base Healthcare’s team will be made up largely of Marius Pharmaceutical employees, including Shah, who will continue to play a role in Marius even after launch.
Marius is largely a family enterprise—it was founded by Shalin Shah’s cousin Himanshu Shah, led by cousins Shalin and COO Amit Shah and is funded by Shah Capital, of which Himanshu is also founder—and Shalin is “keeping it in the family” in another sense by moving much of Marius’ team over to Base Healthcare upon launch.
So far, Base’s telehealth platform is working with providers in 34 states including its home base of North Carolina to prescribe testosterone therapy, and will look to expand its team “rapidly” in the coming months, especially in the Triangle. Shah notes Shah Capital’s interest in losing one of its best financial minds in Shalin, and its willingness to self-fund this venture, as an indicator of their confidence in Base’s success.
With just 8% of patients staying on injectable testosterone for more than a year, he is hoping to obtain and sustain 50,000 patients in Year One with an easily taken oral therapy and a cutting-edge digital healthcare platform to match. Consistency, accountability and comprehensiveness, he hopes, will cause a “paradigm shift” in how we view testosterone care. Base Healthcare is projecting 250K+ patients within a few years and hopes to reach 1M globally as it expands.
“Having a safe and effective oral (treatment) really draws a line in the sand for where this therapy could be over the next five years, because everybody can be comfortable with it,” Shah said. “Clinicians can be comfortable and patients can be comfortable. This changes the entire dynamic.”