Rob Katz

Pop!Tech – Victoria Hale’s One World Health Needs Franchising

Victoria HaleVictoria Hale is the founder of OneWorld Health, a nonprofit pharmaceutical company. The first of its kind in the U.S., OneWorld’s mission is to develop safe, effective, and affordable medicines for those most in need through collaboration with other pharmaceutical companies, governmental and non-governmental agencies, hospitals, and universities.

Hale is a MacArthur Genius Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, Ph.D. chemist, and–until very recently ? the CEO of OneWorld. She recently handed off the day-to-day operations, but she’s staying on the board of directors and will undoubtedly stay involved.OneWorld’s most stunning achievement to date is paromomycin, an antibiotic. Set to be manufactured and distributed in India, paromomycin could save thousands of lives a year. OneWorld’s next plan to impact the planet: making inexpensive production of mass amounts of malaria drugs a reality.

OneWorld can and does find cures, often for diseases that big pharma isn?t interested in and doesn?t find profitable. What they have a problem with is drug distribution. This isn?t new–NextBillion guest blogger and author Nick Sullivan reported it from last year’s Harvard Social Enterprise conference–and it’s a problem that affects all drug companies, not just OneWorld.

So what to do about it? Distribution problems are often about infrastructure, but one way to get around that infrastructure problem is with a good business model. Perhaps Hale would be interested in HealthStore and its CFW Shops in Kenya, or in Mi Farmacita?s 80 franchised pharmacies in Mexico. OneWorld Health may not be the best organization to do the distribution, but what franchising teaches us (at least in healthcare) is that they don?t have to be. Let the nurses and the businessmen do the work.

Not familiar with franchised pharmacies? Here’s an excerpt from the HealthStore case study:

The non-profit HealthStore Foundation (HS) (formerly Sustainable Healthcare Enterprise Foundation) was founded in 1997 to ?prevent needless death and illness by sustainably improving access to essential medicines.? HS’s sixty-four for-profit HealthStore franchises serve roughly 400,000 patients per year; by 2008, it plans to expand its network to over 200 locations serving 1.5 million patients per year.

Each HealthStore franchise is owned and operated by a licensed nurse practitioner or by a community health worker with a nurse on staff, enabling outlets to offer a wide range of products and services. With locations in underserved villages and urban areas throughout Kenya, HealthStore clinics provide access to much-needed healthcare, while generating enough revenue to pay their nurse-owners and staff a competitive annual salary.

The HealthStore micro-franchise model gives local entrepreneurs the opportunity to own and operate sustainable, profitable businesses while simultaneously curtailing incentives for corruption, as franchisees risk losing their business if they fail to comply with franchise regulations. By aligning the incentives of customers, government regulators, and owner-operators, HealthStore’s franchise model is able to deliver a high quality of care to previously underserved Kenyans while realizing a healthy return on investment.

For more on franchised solutions to healthcare distribution problems, check out the case studies on HealthStore and Mi Farmacita, and read about Medicine Shoppe (in India) as well.