Pharmapod has its eye on EU expansion

DUBLIN company Pharmapod is eyeing up expansion into Britain, France and Germany following the launch of innovative new software which records, reports and analyses medication-related incidents for pharmacies.

Pharmapod CEO and founder, Leonora O’Brien, says the market for this product is being driven by EU directives which require the reporting, by pharmacists, of all medication incidents — including adverse reactions to drugs as well as errors in the prescribing, dispensing and taking of medicine.

Over the past seven months Pharmapod has been building up a customer base in Ireland for its cloud-based incident reporting system, which is now being used by over 100 pharmacies around the country.

According to Ms O’Brien: “By using Ireland as a test market we have proven the concept and are getting very good feedback. The traction is good and we are now looking at export markets.”

Employing a staff of five, Pharmapod now plans to recruit a marketing person and fundraise with a view to expansion.

Ms O’Brien was working for the pharmacy regulator back in 2010 when she noticed a gap in the market for an incident reporting system. In most pharmacies, incident reporting was a paper-based process, which she felt could be significantly improved by the use of technology. “There was no national platform for incident reporting for pharmacists,” she says, noting that in 2011 the HSE reported 6,633 medication-related incidents.

She decided to use her knowledge of the industry to develop a system which would report the incidents, and which would also analyse them in order to provide data which could be used to prevent the same errors being repeated. “The emphasis is preventing errors and driving patient safety,” she explains.

Registering Pharmapod in 2010, she worked on the project in her spare time, carrying out the initial research and development. Ready for the next step last year, she was selected for the Launchpad accelerator programme at the NDRC (National Digital Research Centre) in Dublin and she gave up her job to focus on the project full-time. Receiving some funding from the programme, she started to build a team and invest in the development of the software.

Nine months later, Pharmapod was ready for launch and was made available to pharmacies on a monthly subscription basis.

Most of the company’s marketing is being done online and Pharmapod has used search engine optimisation tomaximise visibility.

“Word of mouth has been a huge help and a lot of our calls come from pharmacists who have heard about us through a colleague,” says Ms O’Brien.

This year the company has carried out a feasibility study of the UK market and it is now doing similar research into markets such as France and Belgium.

Ms O’Brien says that, to date, over €200,000 has been invested in Pharmapod. She used her own money to start with, received pre-seed funding from the NDRC, and also received Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland, which has now identified the company as a High Potential Start Up.

“Currently we are focusing on implementing our sales and marketing strategy and developing the product further. We have three more modules, including a quality assurance system for pharmacies which is expected to be ready for release later this year.”

Ms O’Brien sees significant scope for Pharmapod and is targeting a turnover of €3m within three years. “The product helps achieve regulatory compliance and improve efficiency and patient safety, thereby reducing the risk of litigation for pharmacists in the process,” she says.

The UK market — which has 12,000 pharmacies — is seen as a good opportunity for the company. Although there is some competition in this market, Ms O’Brien says that Pharmapod’s focus on building an international learning platform for the profession is unique.

Although the current economic climate makes fundraising difficult, Ms O’Brien is confident that Pharmapod will achieve its targets. “Lack of funding won’t hold us back, but with the right funding we could possibly scale faster,” she claims.

In August, the World Pharmacy Congress is coming to Ireland for the first time in almost 40 years. With 4,000 pharmacists expected to attend, this is seen by Pharmapod as a golden opportunity to exhibit its new system.


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