Indigenous health tech startup mPharma has set the ambitious medium-term target of building the continent’s biggest primary care Health Management Organisation (HMO) over the course of the next three years, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Gregory Rockson has indicated.
The company raised US$35million in equity and debt at a Series D round in 2021, bringing the total amount it has raised to US$65million since its inception in 2013; and it aims to further expand its proprietary offerings to “every community on the continent”.
“This amount is the first tranche of a big financing round we intend to finalise this year… We are working to transform community pharmacies into the foundation of a modern health system in Africa. We will leverage the physical infrastructure of our partners to expand Mutti Doctor, our virtual doctor office service, and create Africa’s largest network of doctor offices and diagnostic centres,” Mr. Rockson stated in mPharma’s recently-released Annual Impact Report for 2021.
With data suggesting that in the country approximately 55 percent of patients opt for pharmacies as their first point of call when they first experience symptoms of illness, and only 23 percent visit a clinic or hospital, mPharma has focused on using pharmacies as the launch-pad in its goal of expanding local health coverage – building on its initial goal of managing prescription drug inventory for pharmacies and their suppliers.
At the centre of mPharma’s in-country strategy is QualityRx: local pharmacies are refurbished and converted to become primary care providers. “Through our retail business offerings, particularly the QualityRx conversion franchising model, we can now directly influence not just the price of drugs but also of healthcare services received by patients in eight African countries,” mPharma indicates.
According to the health tech company, pharmacies that join its network “typically double their revenues within the first 12 months”.
In the year under review, the company’s patient support service – Mutti – 25 doctors and 250 primary care nurses were engaged to provide 5,806 consultations, 560 of which were for children, and with more than 41,000 Community Health screenings done.
This brings mPharma’s annual patient count to over two million, through more than 310 Mutti pharmacies across the nine countries where it currently has a footprint.
Giving an update on its recently-launched campaign to provide free cervical cancer screening for 10,000 women in Ghana (6,000) and Nigeria (4,000), mPharma’s Chief Operating Officer Sophia Baah said more than 3,000 women have partaken in the programme locally.
Offering the rationale for the initiative, she said her outfit was concerned by the high prevalence rate of cervical cancer on the continent, coupled with low rates of testing.
She added that mPharma was particularly encouraged by the success of a breast cancer-focused radio programme in Nigeria.
“Unfortunately, many women lack access to early diagnosis – which is crucial for cancer prevention as well as subsequent treatment. We are seeking to reimagine testing and treatment of cervical cancer across the continent, with a focus on improving public awareness of the Human Papillomavirus Virus (HPV) related cancers and diseases,” mPharma’s COO said.
Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in African women, with an estimated incidence rate was 139.6 per 100,000 women; and the mortality was an estimated 94.1 per 100,000 in 2018.
According to data aggregator, Statista, in 2019 Ghana registered 1,716 total deaths from cervical cancer, increasing considerably from the 2018 figure. The number of cervical cancer deaths peaked in 2019 as it kept an upward trend since 2000. The number of cervical cancer deaths that year reached 1,143.