Chemist startup gets the script right as demand grows for prescription delivery

Online pharmacy startup Chemist2U is looking to deliver more medicines directly to customers’ homes after reporting a quick uptake of its same-day prescription service since it launched last year.

Chemist2U has signed up 150 pharmacies across Australia and has grown sales by 10 per cent week on week. It has attracted the interest of venture capital firm AirTree Ventures which recently led a $3 million investment into the startup.

“We launched in March in Brisbane in the middle of the pandemic which was by and large helpful rather than unhelpful,” founder Dr Matthew Cullen said. “It had been in the works but certainly COVID-19 focused our attention big time.”

Dr Matthew Cullen, founder of Chemist2U with Dennis Chen Pharmacist at Soul Pattinson Pharmacy Crows Nest, which is one of the Chemist2U’s partner pharmacies.
Dr Matthew Cullen, founder of Chemist2U with Dennis Chen Pharmacist at Soul Pattinson Pharmacy Crows Nest, which is one of the Chemist2U’s partner pharmacies.Credit:Jessica Hromas

Dr Cullen first saw the opportunity for Chemist2U when he was a medical student and worked delivering medicine to old and vulnerable people who couldn’t make it to a pharmacy.

“It’s always been at the back of my mind wondering was there a broader commercial opportunity,” he said. “Then with the advent of businesses like Menulog and Deliveroo in the restaurant game I suddenly thought well maybe this is something that could work in the pharmacy industry.”

The startup has tapped into a boom in prescription delivery with chains Chemist Warehouse and Priceline both launching their own delivery services and startups including Rosemary Health and Kin Fertility offering competing services.

Dr Cullen said Chemist2U differs from its competitors as it is entirely focused on delivery not retail and operates across demographics rather than targeting a certain customer such as Kin’s focus on young women taking the contraceptive pill.

He is also confident his company differs from US prescription delivery platform Capsule and Amazon’s PillPack because of regulations in Australia limit consolidation in the sector and require pharmacies to be owned by pharmacists.

Dr Cullen said Chemist2U has benefited from two trends driven by COVID-19: social distancing and e-commerce.


“People have become more and more aware of social distancing in a generic sense, people don’t actually want to go to a busy pharmacy and queue with lots of unhealthy people,” he said “Another angle is the big uptake in e-ommerce and getting things delivered.”

Chemist2U is also set to see gains from the government’s e-prescribing framework which enables a shift from paper prescriptions to prescriptions using electronic QR codes.

“It’s being rolled out, all the infrastructure is built and adoption is still in early days but I think by the end of next year certainly it will increasingly be ubiquitous and paper prescriptions will progressively disappear,” Dr Cullen said.

Chemist2U will use the funding injection to target people with multiple prescriptions and invest in software development and marketing.

Craig Blair, co-founder and partner at AirTree Ventures, said Chemist2U was a “real disrupter” in the Australian marketplace and could benefit doctors, pharmacy owners and consumers.

“We have seen COVID, in particular, accelerate a whole range of improvements in health care delivery and really transformed everything from services to devices to products, and Chemist2U fits into that thematic,” he said. “It is going to be a very, very large market and I think there is room for lots of players.”

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