A Ghanaian startup that helps prescription drugs reach under-served markets has raised $17 million in funding.
mPharma, founded in 2013 by Gregory Rockson, Daniel Shoukimas, and James Finucane works to streamline the delivery of prescription drugs and make them affordable for all.
The company now plans to expand its Vendor Management Inventory system and QualityRx platforms with its new funding. mPharma is already operational in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
The announcement follows news that the startup raised $12 million last year, and $6.6 million in Series A funding in 2017. The total of its funds raised now stands at over $40 million.
The startup purchased Haltons, Kenya’s second-largest pharmacy chain, in 2019, bringing the number of its outlets to 30.
Speaking to Quartz, founder Gregory Rockson said: “We had mapped out a plan for expansion when we bought Haltons and soon paid off its debt and owed salaries to build trust with the staff, but the lockdown has cut our hours and slowed growth.”
The UK’s CDC Group led this round with other investors including Novartis, Dompe Holdings, and Dr. Daniel Vasella.
The CDC often acts as a ‘fund of funds’ putting cash to work in developing countries and tackling current events.
Rockson spoke to TechPoint about mPharma’s partnership with the CDC: “Bringing a Development Finance Institution with extensive government contacts across Africa would improve our appeal and help strengthen our corporate governance because of the ESG [environmental, social and governance] rules under which they operate.”
The company has also recently added Helena Foulkes, the former CEO of the Hudson Bay Company, to its board. Foulkes was previously the president of CVS Pharmacy, America’s largest pharmacy chain.
She said: “The mission of mPharma to make pharmaceuticals more affordable and accessible is striking. I’m interested in the different ways this young company can grow, they have their own chain, loyalty programs, there’s plenty of potential.”
Others on the board include ex-CEO and chairman of Novartis Daniel Vasella, former CEO of Airtel Ghana Philip Sowah, and managing partner of 4DX, Andrew Carruthers.
On its website, mPharma clearly states its goal: ‘Our vision is an Africa that’s in good health. We will not cease until every person on the continent has access to safe and affordable medicine.’
The company recognizes Africa’s broken drug supply chain- rising disease rates are accompanied by drugs that fail to get to those who need them the most. Diabetes, cancer, and hypertension are currently putting the biggest burden on Africa’s healthcare systems, and many patients can’t afford full treatment.
The startup reports that many patients are left wondering whether they should buy prescription medicine or food for their families. The site adds ‘in a just world, these are choices no-one should have to make’.
That’s where mPharma comes in – the startup is working to stock pharmacy shelves with no upfront payments required. Patients can then pay in flexible installments using a Multi card, and even receive a free healthcare screening.
Each manufacturer and distributor the company works with is thoroughly vetted to ensure all drugs are safe and of the highest quality. mPharma hopes to eliminate inefficiencies in healthcare systems, and slow price fluctuations that prevent drugs from reaching those who need them.
It even works with community pharmacies to ensure they only pay for the drugs they distribute to patients. mPharma gives drugs to pharmacies, rather than asking pharmacies to buy stock. This ensures expiry dates are managed and stock-outages are a thing of the past.
Since 2013, the company’s innovations have helped over 400,000 patients gain access to high-quality medicines.