Nonprofit Startup Gets Unused Medications to Minnesotans in Need

A new University of Minnesota startup aims to make sure fewer prescription medications go to waste—and more reach the patients who need them, but cannot afford them.

Nonprofit RoundtableRx, spearheaded by students at the UMN Twin Cities College of Pharmacy, will serve as the state’s first medication repository, collecting donations of unexpired medications from health care facilities across Minnesota and getting them to residents who struggle to afford their prescriptions. The startup, based in Minneapolis, was launched with support from UMN Technology Commercialization’s Venture Center.

“We’re wasting so much medication that’s safe,” said Rowan Mahon, PharmD, founder and managing director of RoundtableRx and a recent doctorate of pharmacy graduate, in a news release. “It just is crazy to me that sometimes people have to make that decision between paying their rent, buying groceries, or buying their medication. Our health care system sometimes puts people in that position, and I really want RoundtableRx to help with that."

From nursing homes to assisted living communities, there are 325 long-term care facilities in Minnesota. These facilities dispose of an estimated $16 million worth of safe, unexpired medication every year, according to estimates by the nonprofit association Care Providers of Minnesota. Medication repositories like RoundtableRx help prevent pharmaceutical waste and keep these medications from being flushed into the state’s water supply. Meanwhile, they ensure patients can take their prescriptions as instructed, leading not only to better health outcomes, but a decrease in avoidable health care expenses through emergency room use and hospitalizations.

Mahon said the spike in unemployment caused by COVID-19 this year has left many without insurance, making a medication repository all the more important.

“The number of individuals who are losing their jobs is extremely significant, and when you lose your job, you lose insurance,” she said. “As the pandemic continues, we know the medication shortages that are already happening are going to get worse. Our goal is to begin helping individuals across the state as quickly as possible.”

To date, RoundtableRx has built collaborations with seven health care systems representing 33 hospitals and nearly 200 clinics statewide and has arrangements in place to receive donated medications from the largest long-term care facilities in the state.

See the news release to learn more.

RoundtableRx recently placed second in the student division of the 2020 MN Cup competition, which connects emerging entrepreneurs from across the state with tools, resources, and support to launch and accelerate the development of their new ventures.

The nonprofit also received a Minne Inno 2020 Inno on Fire award in the “Crisis Innovators” category .