The pharmaceutical industry generates billions upon billions of dollars in revenues each year, rendering it a prime opportunity for business. It can, however, be an intimidating market to tackle. Memed, out of Brazil, isn’t fazed by the complications.
Memed is a web-based e-prescription service and social collaboration tool for doctors. With a business model similar to that of Epocrates, Memed is the first company of its kind in Brazil. It is attacking the country’s booming medical prescriptions market, which drove US$26 billion in sales in 2011 alone.
In their pre-launch research, the Memed team found 70% of all medical visits result in prescriptions, meaning 35 million prescriptions each month in Brazil. What they also discovered, shockingly, was that an estimated 75% of those prescriptions contain a chance error. Thus, they set out to build a solution.
Memed was founded in January 2012 by Ricardo Moraes (CEO), René Moraes (CTO) and Marcel Ribeiro (Design/UX expert) to help doctors keep up-to-speed with the latest in medicine and treatments and avoid errors. Their e-health system gives doctors access to the best information on each medication they need to prescribe.
Since its launch, Memed has concentrated on the field of dermatology, placing its energies on creating an app for Brazil’s dermatologists. To date, the company has been responsible for more than 3,000 prescriptions for its catalog of over 1,200 products. It is currently being accelerated by 21212 in Rio de Janeiro and has also developed a relationship with Endeavor Brasil.
Ricardo Moraes, CEO of Memed, told us more about the company.
Emily Stewart: The medical industry is a huge sector to tackle. In terms of preparations, how much leg work has this taken?
Ricardo Moraes: We’re lucky that we’re entrepreneurs solving a problem we are very familiar with, coming from a family of doctors. This gives us a lot more understanding than if we were coming from the outside and makes it easier to get access to people who live with these problems every day. Of course, we have also done a lot of research on the e-health market globally and surveyed doctors and pharmaceutical company executives as part of a Brazilian market study. We spend a lot of time talking to our current customers and to potential customers.
As they say, a huge challenge is also a huge opportunity. We wouldn’t mind if other entrepreneurs were intimidated by this space because there would be less competition … at least compared to consumer internet products … but either way, we are ready for the challenge.
ES: In terms of law and regulations, what have you had to do? Is there still work to be done?
RM: Before coming to the 21212 acceleration program, we closely studied regulations regarding medical ethics, restrictions on services providers, privacy restrictions, etc., in order to understand the specific requirements of the Federal Medical Committee. With the mentorship of 21212, we are now looking beyond this and adapting our solution for digital market and B2C regulations so medical professionals can use our platform to safely consult product information and prescribe medications. We know that as our product expands and touches more parts of the doctor/patient experience, legal issues will become more and more important. Again, we view this as a challenge, a deterrent to competitors, and an opportunity.
ES: You’ve started with dermatology. Why begin there, and how have things gone?
RM: My older brother is a dermatologist, and we knew that we could rely on him and his professional network for initial advice and feedback on our beta product. It’s been a great strategy to start with one niche, because it’s made it easier to build out our product database. It’s also helped with customer acquisition and viral growth. After a critical mass of doctors in one specialty starts to use Memed, it becomes that much easier to build momentum and add new customers.
Since January, over 13% of all Brazilian dermatologists have registered to use Memed. The feedback has been very positive. Dermatologists are impressed with our extensive catalog of products – we have over 1200. We’ve adapted the product to address their specific needs, like adding manipulation formulas. We feel like we’re starting to solve some of these huge problems that we saw when we first decided to start the business.
ES: This is, in many ways, a clone of Epocrates. What adjustments have you had to make for the Brazilian market?
RM: We see Epocrates as our international benchmark in the way they organize product information. Their scale and engagement is something we aspire to, for sure. Of course, doctors in Brazil want information in their native language, and they want a database of products that are available here. Most importantly, manipulation formulas are very common in Brazil but unique to our market. In our directory, we include both industrial drugs and manipulation formulas.
Besides that, we want to enable doctors to prescribe medicines in a way never before possible in Brazil. In this sense, from the beginning we took a broader approach than Epocrates to try to fill in the additional gaps that still exist in the healthcare technology space here as compared to the United States.
ES: Why choose to accelerate with 21212?
RM: After looking at the track record of accelerators in Brazil – the founding teams and their experience, the internal staff, the portfolio companies accelerated, the capital they’ve raised – it was clear to us that 21212 was the best digital accelerator in Brazil. With their help, we are making huge improvements, bringing talent to our team and building lots of great features to change doctors’ lives in the next few months.
They’ve worked with us on product and technology, on proven methodologies to build successful startups and on customer development. They have also opened doors to potential investors and strategic partners that wouldn’t have been available to us otherwise. The experience has met and exceeded our expectations in every way, and we’ve only been here for a couple of months.
Memed’s to-do list for the rest of the year and beyond is lengthy. The company plans to continue to grow its pharmaceutical database and expand into other medical specialties, and it will also build new features. Patient prescription history, pharmacy integration and social elements are on the horizon, as are pharmaceutical partnerships.
Though Memed is only available in a web-based format today, it is developing mobile apps to help doctors connect to its e-health system as well.