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Exclusive : LUDA Partners helps pharmacies digitalise, locate medicines in short supply and boost online sales

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Luis Martín Lázaro discusses LUDA’s unique business model, the rationale behind its expansion plans in the UK, and its future aspirations 

“There is a culture of innovation in the UK, especially in fields like digital health, which presents numerous opportunities for tech companies,” says Luis Martín Lázaro, co-founder of LUDA Partners, a Madrid-based tech company that is set to expand its operations into the UK. 

Speaking exclusively to Pharmacy Business, he explains that while pharmacies in the UK are technologically advanced, there is still “ample room” for improvement to fully integrate them into the digital era.

Created by and for pharmacists, LUDA Partners has two well-defined goals: supporting pharmacies in their digitalisation journey to increase their online sales, and connecting pharmacies to help them find medicines that are in short supply for their patients. 

Luis Martín Lázaro and Daniel de Carvajal founded the company in 2017 in response to a request from the Association of Pharmacists of Madrid (Adefarma), which identified a problematic situation where medicine supply issues were impacting pharmacists, distributors, and patients.  

The LUDA Partners project has made significant strides in the Spanish market, having successfully established a network of over 3,700 pharmacies interconnected in real time increasing their revenues.

Some pharmacies in the United Kingdom have already joined the project, with the company aiming to engage around 2000 pharmacies, including independent pharmacies, by July 2025.   

“The service will become available post-summer (in September) as we finalize integration with the PMR system.

“It will involve pharmacies within our network collaborating to utilize our tool for online sales, enabling them to track missing drugs and facilitate urgent medication for patients by referring them to nearby pharmacies,” says Luis. 

How partnering with LUDA benefits pharmacies

By joining the digital network, pharmacies can enhance their online product sales while locating medicines that are in short supply.

Pharmacies can sell products online without needing their own website by connecting with quick commerce platforms, marketplaces, and pharmaceutical company sites. They can send and receive orders, with LUDA handling all the delivery logistics.

There are no fees or installation costs for joining the network – the pharmacies only pay 10 per cent when they make a sale.

Furthermore, there is no price competition; the nearest pharmacy secures the sale, and consumers/patients can receive their pharmacy products in less than 30 minutes at their homes or workplaces, or they can pick them up directly from the pharmacy. 

Luis expounds: “We want to be the engine for their online sales so they don’t have to do extra steps such as picking, packaging, call center, delivery. 

“They could participate in serving their products with the advantage for the consumer of having a super proficient professional leading the operation of that pharmacy with no mistakes, under the most ideal security and storage conditions.”

[LUDA’s business model involves one pharmacy directing patients to another nearby pharmacy for medications they don’t have in stock. The company charges pharmacy number 2 which makes the sale for this referral service and shares the profit with pharmacy number 1. This model aims to enhance patient access to medications while assisting pharmacies in managing and overcoming medicine shortages.]

By helping pharmacies locate medicines in short supply, LUDA assisted over 160,000 patients in continuing their prescribed treatments in 2023 alone.  

In an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Business, Luis Martín Lázaro discusses LUDA’s unique business model, the rationale behind its expansion plans in the UK, and its future aspirations. Following are excerpts from the interview

Q.  What makes the UK market attractive for LUDA Partners? 

The British market is attractive to us for various reasons. Firstly, the UK has a high demand for pharmaceutical and health products overall, driven by its large population and high purchasing power. 

Additionally, the country possesses advanced infrastructure in healthcare and e-commerce, facilitating the distribution and sale of pharmaceutical products both online and in physical stores. In this regard, the pharmaceutical market in the UK is governed by clear and stringent regulations, providing a secure environment for companies operating in the sector.

On the other hand, pharmacies in the UK are technologically advanced, yet there remains ample room for improvement to fully integrate them into the digital era.

It is important for us that there is a culture of innovation in the UK, particularly in areas such as digital health. This presents numerous opportunities for us to advance our technological project. Historically, the UK has served as a gateway for companies like ours seeking to expand into other European and global markets.

In summary, the British market offers a favourable environment for the growth and expansion of pharmaceutical companies, with its large market size, robust regulatory framework, and advanced technological infrastructure.

Q.  What unique challenges or opportunities have you encountered in the UK compared to other markets?

Initially, we thought British pharmacies would be more digitalised than pharmacies in other countries, but we have found that many of them still use manual methods to manage their inventories. This makes it a bit more difficult for us to connect with them, and one of our current tasks is to educate them to transition to more digital methods. 

LUDA assists them in transitioning from manual operations to real-time stock management for free without fixed or maintenance costs. As for opportunities, we recognize a strong commitment to patient care and a desire to expand their business.

Q. What has been the response from pharmacies in the United Kingdom, and how have their average monthly sales increased since partnering with LUDA?

The response from pharmacies in the United Kingdom has been very positive. Despite the crisis currently affecting these healthcare establishments, British pharmacies want to continue advancing and participate in successful initiatives like the one we propose.

For example, Allchin Pharmacy, located at 28 England’s Lane, Belsize Park in London, was among the first to join the project. In its first live week, it started receiving initial orders for pharmacy products from users who purchased through the Just Eat app, thanks to our collaboration agreement.

According to our previous statistics, we estimate that the average revenue per pharmacy in the UK that joins the project could reach £2,700.

Q. What kind of training or support does LUDA provide to pharmacies to help them integrate and maximize the use of your project?

The integration of the LUDA tool is very simple when a pharmacy decides to participate in our various digital projects.

The first command for LUDA is never to put handwork on their clients. We want them to keep doing what they do very well: serve the public and we will make the digitalisation for them. 

The installation is done remotely and does not disrupt the daily operation or the business workflow. Initially, we provide brief training on how to start using this technology to the staff. Additionally, LUDA can be available on as many computers in the pharmacy as desired, unlike other tools that are limited to one.

We also have a training department that works closely with the pharmacies to help them if they have any questions or need to clarify any points. However, as I mentioned, the whole process is very simple, and we have a high percentage of pharmacies where all their staff know how to use the LUDA system perfectly.

Additionally, we shared educational content in our LUDA Academy, a comprehensive portal with engaging and dynamic videos that allow them to solve any doubts that might arise.

Q. How does LUDA Partners differentiate itself from other pharmacy networks and quick commerce solutions in the market?

LUDA Partners contributes to strengthening the current British pharmaceutical system so that it can become a digital and innovative sector of global reference. In this way, it works on the maintenance, adaptation, and digitalisation of these healthcare establishments, always respecting their pharmaceutical model.

LUDA is synonymous with technology, and the entire team has a solid understanding of this professional environment, as well as the needs and concerns that arise within the pharmacies themselves.

At LUDA Partners, we always work hand in hand with pharmacies, who advise us on any business decisions we undertake. They also guide us on the various alternatives we should consider regarding communication and relationships with other players.

Unlike other solutions, and as a digital network, LUDA offers a fully technological solution in collaboration with various partners, where each pharmacy is an essential link. This allows each individual action to have a direct impact across the entire network, making it even stronger.

[LUDA is not a buying group, a selling group nor a pharmacy chain or pharmaceutical group. LUDA Partners is a digital network of pharmacies in which they collaborate and exploit their benefits respecting their geographical area on the map.]

Q. What were the main challenges LUDA encountered when trying to persuade pharmacies to start selling their pharmacy products online?

When we talk to pharmacies interested in starting to sell their products online, typical challenges often involve facing resistance to change. Many pharmacies were used to traditional brick-and-mortar operations and were initially hesitant to adopt online sales. Convincing them to embrace digital transformation and adjust their business model posed a significant challenge.

Also, some pharmacies lacked the technical expertise or infrastructure needed to start selling their pharmacy products online effectively. Overcoming these technical barriers and providing support for installation and integration were crucial steps in the persuasion process.

Q. How does LUDA manage logistics and ensure timely deliveries?

One of the most interesting aspects of this project is that the pharmacy doesn’t have to worry about anything; the process is very simple and convenient. Additionally, if the pharmacy has a website, it is compatible with this new online sales system.

We take care of everything from the moment they decide to join the project. Pharmacies integrate seamlessly with our digital network, allowing us to manage their pharmacy references, send and activate the order pad to start receiving orders from our partners, create their catalogue on the delivery platform, such as Just Eat, and process payments for the products through the app itself.

The pharmacy simply receives the notification, prepares the order, and awaits the courier to come and collect it. One of the main advantages of this system is that users can have their order at home in less than 20-30 minutes, with the assurance that it has been prepared and dispatched from a trusted pharmacy.

In this way, we successfully and directly connect the customer with the pharmacy, offering a service that no one else can provide. It’s impossible to find a store, warehouse, or marketplace capable of enhancing the proximity that the British pharmaceutical system offers without forcing the patient to leave the pharmacy channel.

LUDA intends to collaborate with the top five delivery companies in the UK to facilitate rapid delivery services.

Q. What is your vision for the future of LUDA Partners in the next decade?

At LUDA, we always set the bar high; we consider ourselves dreamers, and so far, things have been going quite well for us. 

Over the next ten years, our goals include expanding into new international markets, developing even more advanced technologies to enhance pharmacy connectivity and efficiency, and solidifying our position as leaders in the digitalization of the pharmaceutical sector. Additionally, we will continue to strengthen strategic partnerships and innovate continuously to swiftly adapt to the evolving needs of the global healthcare market.

If I had to say a number, we would go to 50,000 pharmacies in 15 different countries. 

Q. Are there any new technologies or services that LUDA is planning to introduce in the near future?

In the near future, our goal is to continue attracting new pharmacies to become part of the LUDA digital network. This project does not make sense without them, and the more pharmacies that join, the better this system will work.

We want to provide real solutions to the needs of the pharmaceutical sector. To this end, we aim to establish agreements with all the quick commerce companies operating in the UK within the next few months, as is already the case in Spain, where 100 per cent of these quick commerce platforms are integrated with LUDA.

Additionally, we are working to finalize new agreements in the UK with the main pharmaceutical companies and marketplaces operating in the country. Our aim is for British pharmacies to continue their digital transformation process and ‘stand on the shoulders of giants’ in the industry, who have web traffic and can boost sales of their pharmacy products.

Luis predicts that medicine shortages will intensify in the coming decade, with no decrease in medicine prices, and customers increasingly adapting to online platforms across all sectors. 

His message to pharmacies that are hesitant to digitalize their operations: “Either adapt now, or risk losing 17 to 20 per cent of your customer base within the next eighteen months.

 

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