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An eBay for pharmaceuticals connects hospital purchasers with secondary wholesalers

June 6, 2013 7:53 am by | 0 Comments

pharma wholesalerTo hear Samantha Godfrey tell it, Pharmly is “optimizing the pharmaceutical supply-chain cycle for medical facilities.” In real terms, it’s matchmaking for pharmaceutical buyers and the wholesale suppliers who have the drugs they need.

Godfrey’s new startup was born out of her experience selling pharmaceuticals through secondary wholesale suppliers, who oftentimes struggled to find the facilities who needed the drugs they had in stock.

Many hospitals, pharmacies and other licensed prescription provider work with big wholesalers like McKesson, Cardinal Health and Amerisource. But there are a number of reasons those wholesalers might not be able to meet the demand of the purchasers, ranging from a national drug shortage to a situational shortage within the company.

When that happens, purchasers likely turn to the robust market of secondary wholesalers. But the process by which they do that isn’t so smooth. It’s often done by email, phone or fax, Godfrey said, and is limited by the small staff of smaller wholesalers.

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Pharmly is intended to make that process smoother by providing a bidding platform to connect medical facilities with those vendors. Purchasers create a free account through which they can send out bid requests to Pharmly’s network of vendors who are licensed to sell in the purchaser’s state.

The wholesalers can’t see the purchasers who have requested a bid, but if they have product available they can submit an offer back, and then the purchaser can choose the best offer. Pharmly takes a transaction fee when there’s a match, but does not facilitate the transaction itself. That’s one thing Godfrey said gives it a leg-up over other online pharmaceutical marketplaces. “(Companies) want the transaction to run through their site if they’re conducting e-commerce, because it ensures that they’re building their revenue, but the customers don’t want that,” she said. “Once [our system] matches, we take a transaction fee and the customer and vendor are connected together outside of us. We don’t touch the product.”

But what about the questionable reputation that secondary distributors seem to have? They’ve been accused of marking up prices big time and hoarding drugs to create false shortages. Godfrey said Pharmly’s vendors must upload their licenses for the states they sell in, and have them confirmed by Pharmly, before they can reply to bid requests. Godfrey’s co-founder, Kubs Lalchandani, is an attorney in Miami specializing in pharmaceutical compliance.

The site went live about a week and a half ago, and already has 16 hospitals and four vendors signed up, Godfrey said. So far, the company has been self-funded with $50,000 and boosted by $20,000 from Honolulu’s incubator BlueStartups. The company also just won Startup World: Hawaii/MaiTai.

Over the next several months, the company’s goals include adding a preferred vendor list for purchasers, so they can add their existing vendors into the system and include them in bid send-outs.

It’s also setting up a message board where doctors, retail pharmacies and hospitals can post immediate needs, to facilitate trade deals with others nearby.

Down the road, Godfrey said she wants to create an API system that would integrate with purchasers’ inventory management systems, generating automatic notifications when their supplies get low and prompting them to send out a bid request.

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Deanna Pogorelc

By Deanna Pogorelc MedCity News

Deanna Pogorelc is a Cleveland-based reporter who writes obsessively about life science startups across the country, looking to technology transfer offices, startup incubators and investment funds to see what’s next in healthcare. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University and previously covered business and education for a northeast Indiana newspaper.
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