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With a focus on generic drugs, online pharmacy startup Truemeds is helping cut drug bills by 47%

Healthcare costs have risen dramatically in recent years, owing to India’s growing population, aging elderly, incidence of diseases, utilization of medical services, rising drug costs and other factors.

Across the country, people who must take medication on a daily basis largely spend out of pocket and end up shelling out large sums over the years.

Mumbai-based health tech start-up Truemeds aims to help change that by lowering the price of drug bills “as much as possible”. 47 percent” by offering alternative medicines.

The Mumbai-based online pharmacy was founded in 2019 by Akshat Nayyar and Dr Kunal Wani, who previously worked for a pharmaceutical company. The duo were intrigued by the prospect of generic drugs and how they could help patients lower their drug bills.

Truemeds claims to reduce pharmacy bills by 47%

According to the US FDA, a generic drug is a drug created to be identical to an already marketed brand name drug in terms of dosage form, safety, strength, route of administration, quality, performance characteristics, and drug use. intended use.

These similarities help demonstrate bioequivalence, which means that a generic drug works the same way and provides the same clinical benefit as the brand name drug.

Throughout the world, the pharmaceutical market is made up of players holding original patents and players working on (generic) patents. According to industry estimates, approximately 95 percent drugs available on the Indian market are off-patent.

Brand name drugs are more expensive as companies undertake significant sales and marketing activities for these drugs. Marketed generics, on the other hand, offer the same efficacy but at a lower cost.

The founders of Truemeds saw an opportunity in bringing these low-cost drugs to chronic patients.

“We wanted to address the issue of drug affordability so that patients could have them as a right rather than a privilege,” Akshat says.

The founders spent time researching this industry and realized they could harness the technology to reduce regular medical bills. They received an initial investment from the managing director of Abbot India, the company they both worked at, and got started.

How the model works

On Truemeds, a patient needs to upload the prescription to the site. The startup has built algorithms that analyze more than two lakh drugs and suggest accurate alternatives that are priced lower.

The online pharmacy also has a panel of doctors to answer any doubts that patients may have when ordering these generic drugs because they are not the ones prescribed by their doctor. Only after all this are the drugs sold and delivered.

“Patients are generally unaware of available alternatives and we only suggest quality drugs with the same levels of efficacy,” says Akshat.

Truemeds started out as an alternative medicine recommendation business, but the team later realized that consumers needed to be accompanied through the process, even after delivery.

Akshat says that on average, Truemeds is able to deliver savings of 47 percent for clients if they switch brands of drugs. If they decide not to go for the generic drug, it provides drugs at a standard price 20 percent delivery.

The startup is able to offer savings due to two factors: marketed generic drugs are available at a lower price, and the company absorbs the margin costs of sales and marketing (so they are not passed on to the consumer).

The pharmaceutical industry is quite complex, with a mixture of relationships between manufacturers, resellers or distributors and doctors.

Truemeds works with over 150 distributors

Truemeds, which now has a 100 member teamworks with pharmaceutical companies and distributors to source medicines.

Akshat says, “We work with over 150 distributors and there is no reason to bypass them as they add value to the entire supply chain.

Truemeds has partnerships with several logistics companies like Delhivery, Blue Dart, Xpressbees, etc.

Growth and purpose

Truemeds began operations in Bombay, and in a short time covered the state of Maharashtra. It has now spread to other cities like Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore where he set up distribution centers. The startup has plans to cover more locations.

COVID-19 brought some tailwinds to the Truemeds business as consumers spent more time online and also looked for ways to save money, given the impact of the pandemic on the means of subsistence.

“As of April 2020, we have been cultivating 78X and supplying drugs nationwide,” Akshat says. The startup serves 18,000 PIN codes Across the country.

Truemeds claims to deliver about a lakh of orders per month, and says it is growing on average by 20% month after month. The goal is to bring it to five lakh orders by March 2023.

The startup raised approx. $27 million in funding to date from investors such as WestBridge Capital, InfoEdge Ventures, Indian Angel Network Fund, etc.

Market and outlook

The pharmaceutical market in India is $25 billion in size, according to Akshat, and he thinks Truemeds just scratched the surface.

Citing statistics, he says the share of generic prescription drugs in the United States has increased from 40% in 2005 to 86%. In India, the share is only 8% and is expected to reach 45% by 2025.

“We would like to be the leader in the field of marketed generics, with an emphasis on patient well-being,” says Akshat.

Competition for Truemeds comes from other health tech startups like Medcard, Stay Happy and Dawaa Dost, but the co-founder thinks it’s best to have more players because the need of the hour is “d ‘evangelizing alternative medicines or marketed generics’.

The main challenge is that patients do not easily switch to cheaper generic drugs, which makes awareness raising vital.

“Our goal is to meet customer expectations and provide them with a good overall experience,” says Akshat.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai
Joan J. Dean

The author Joan J. Dean