Zachariah Reitano was 17 when he realized something was wrong with his health. He was suffering from a disorder most often associated with guys three times his age: erectile dysfunction.
Knowing this, Reitano’s dad took him in for a stress test, where his worst fears were confirmed when his son’s heart stopped beating in the doctor’s office. “My heartbeat peaked at 220 and then actually just stopped," he recalled. "I dropped while I was exercising in front of them.”
Thankfully, his father and other medical professionals were on hand to bring him back to life. After heart surgery, Reitano was put on medication that had one serious side effect. As fate would have it, he once again had ED.
Now, more than a decade after his own health scare, Reitano is hoping to change the way men perceive ED and how they get treated for it.
“The experience is pretty poor,” Reitano said of what it’s like to receive care for men’s sexual health. “I was reluctant to even go just because I was fearful...I know that's not how it should be, but I recognized that in myself, so I wanted to see if we could help reduce the barriers for other men.”
That's how he dreamed up the idea for Roman, a discreet, safe, and efficient platform for guys to get the care they need for ED without feeling embarrassed over doctor visits or having to pick up medications at the pharmacy.
"A lot of men have this misconception that being tough means ignoring their health problems," Reitano said. (He's onto something—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that men are half as likely as women to go see a doctor over a two-year period.)
To use Roman, potential customers who feel they might be suffering from ED complete a confidential five-minute online visit about their medical history. Any preference for a particular type of medication is noted.
Next, the potential patient’s file is reviewed by a U.S. licensed physician. If the doc determines the patient isn't a good candidate for tele-health—like if their health risk seems too great, or if they appear to be cruising for meds—they won't be charged. If the patient is approved after the initial online consult, he'll be charged $15. The physician will follow up if necessary and write a prescription if appropriate. (You'll have to pay for the medication separately, just like you would after a regular doctor's visit.)
If you're prescribed meds, they'll be shipped from the Roman Pharmacy Network and will refill automatically every month or quarter. The medication comes in sleek grey and red packaging that looks more akin to a vitamin wrapper than a bill bottle. Roman patients can follow up any time with questions for the app's pharmacy and medical team via a secure messaging platform.
It's no surprise that Roman has been able to attract more than $3 million in seed funding from the likes of reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, among others.
“The market for men’s health is massive and poorly served—there’s no trusted brand for men,” Ohanian said in a statement shared with Men’s Health. “I deeply believe in a next generation of brands like Roman that are poised to own entire segments thanks to great products and services designed for the digital age.”
Ultimately, Reitano wants to crush the stigma surrounding ED.
“It's important that people don't see themselves as, 'Oh I'm a guy with ED,'" he said. "Rather, they're just a guy with a hurdle that this company would love nothing more than to do something about."
This article was originally published by Men's Health.