RoundtableRx: Matching medications to Minnesotans in need
A nonprofit delivers unused medications to Minnesotans in need—for free.
“For me it was a very emotional moment, a big moment,” says Rowan Mahon (MPH, MHI ’19; PharmD ’20) of the day in late April when RoundtableRx, a nonprofit startup created by students at the U of M’s College of Pharmacy, delivered its first medications to Minnesotans in need—completely free of charge.
“We’ve worked so hard, so many hours, so much time, so much money, so many people have had to come together to believe in this, and we can finally help someone,” says Mahon.
It was both a culmination and the next chapter for a project that began several years earlier, when Mahon took the Pharmacy College Admissions Test and read an article in the exam about statewide medication repositories.
“It took me about a year to realize that Minnesota didn’t have one, and from there we began working to do that,” she says.
Today Mahon is a pharmacist in the Twin Cities, as well as the founder and managing director of RoundtableRx, Minnesota’s first and only statewide medication repository.
By collaborating with the state’s largest long-term care facilities, RoundtableRx safely redistributes unused, unexpired medications to more than 200 Minnesota hospitals and clinics.
About $2 billion in medications are thrown away every year in the United States, with about $16 million of that in Minnesota.
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Meanwhile, a third of Minnesotans struggle to afford prescription medications. And while 21 states have medication repositories, Minnesota wasn’t one of them until the launch of RoundtableRx.
Mahon didn’t get here alone, and it wasn’t easy. Along with cofounder Hannah Van Octen (MPH and PharmD ’20), the team overcame numerous obstacles, from fundraising (they recently received Bush Foundation grants for over $200K) to creating a state law to allow such a repository to exist at all (they got the governor’s signature on the bill in 2019).
Along the way, the team grew as they faced new challenges. Current pharmacy student Eva Carlson (Plant Biology ’17; PharmD ’22), now assistant director of student relations at RoundtableRx, joined the team in 2018 to work on crafting new legislation. Meanwhile, then-Carlson School student Tanner Fuchs (Psychology ’14, MBA ’20), joined to help with financing.
A big part of their success was the support they received through entrepreneurship programs at the U of M. The group participated in the U of M sponsored Walleye Tank, a pitch competition that provides feedback and education to early-stage businesses. They also entered the annual MN Cup competition, a program of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management that supports the development of breakthrough business ideas across Minnesota. It’s the country’s largest statewide new-venture competition, and RoundtableRx placed second in the student division in 2020.
“If I hadn’t been going to the U and had the support from professors and faculty members throughout the entire process, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”