Smart Pill Bottle Startup PatchRx Raises $1.2M Seed Funding, Relocates to Oklahoma

By Iris Gonzalez
PatchRx founders Gavin Buchanan (left) and Andrew Aertker, courtesy photo

PatchRx, a startup that combines hardware and software for improved patient adherence to taking medication, has raised $1.2 million in a seed funding round led by Atento Capital, with participation from Cortado Ventures and the Gaingels Network.

The company, founded by Andrew Aertker and Gavin Buchanan while they were students at Trinity University in San Antonio, also announced the relocation of its operations to Tulsa, OK. The startup has 10 employees, according to LinkedIn.

PatchRx has raised a total of $1.6M in funding over two rounds from the Tulsa-based lead investor Atento Capital for their medication management platform. According to Atento’s website, they “look for exceptional entrepreneurs addressing large markets … Being based in Tulsa is not a requirement for direct investment consideration, but it is preferred.”

PATCH co-founders Gavin Buchanan (left) and Andrew Aertker demonstrate how their PATCH internet-connected pill bottle works. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.
PatchRx co-founders Gavin Buchanan (left) and Andrew Aertker demonstrate how their internet-connected pill bottle works. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.

The founders invented a patented universal smart pill bottle cap device that could revolutionize clinical trials, possibly help prevent drug abuse of potentially addicting pain medication, and help patients remember to take their medicine.

PATCH, or Pill Administering Technology for Compliant Healthcare, is an internet-connected pill bottle that gives clinical trial researchers and pharmacies the ability to remotely track whether a patient is taking medicine and when. The student co-founders competed with the concept for their company, since renamed PatchRx, in the 2018 Trinity University annual Louis H. Stumberg Venture Competition.

According to the World Health Organization, poor medication adherence can account for up to 25% of hospitalizations and approximately 125,000 deaths every year in the U.S.

PatchRx’s patented bottle cap device works with all types of pill bottles used by pharmacies and in clinical trials to remind patients to take the correct doses on time.   The company’s patient-facing services notify users when to take medications, acting as a health tracker for patients.

Patients can also request refills from any PatchRx-registered pharmacy and collect rewards through the mobile app. Clinicians are also notified when doses are missed, allowing for real-time, effective patient monitoring.

“When Gavin and I first met, his grandfather had recently passed away due to a medication non-adherence issue. And not long after, I was diagnosed with cancer and learned firsthand how overwhelming it could be to manage multiple prescriptions,” said Aertker. “From that point on, we were focused on easing the burden that patients and families feel from managing medications.”

“Andrew and Gavin’s experiences with medication adherence prove that PatchRx isn’t just a business, it’s personal,” Michael Basch, managing partner at Atento Capital, wrote in a statement. “We’re glad to see PatchRx take its potential to drive patient outcomes to the next level, and we’re beyond excited they’re choosing to do it in Tulsa.”

Pharmacies play an active role in encouraging medication adherence. PatchRx’s technology is used by independent pharmacies and health systems in research studies across Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma, providing them with digital infrastructure to compete with national chains. The startup expects to be working with up to 40 pharmacies by next month.

Aertker told Startups San Antonio how the duo had shifted their smart pill bottle solution into the pharmacy space to “get community and independent pharmacies to the same level of technology that larger chains use.”

Focusing first on independent neighborhood pharmacies also helps “community pharmacies that have a close connection to their patient base,” Buchanan said. “They need a contactless care platform that can monitor patient compliance in taking medicine.”

PatchRx will use the capital to build out its enterprise software and national sales teams and scale its platform to larger retail pharmacy chains across North America. Longer-range plans include working in tandem with healthcare systems running clinical studies that would benefit from a remotely monitored means of tracking patient compliance.

Aertker and Buchanan initially connected with Atento Capital through a mutual connection the founders met at a student venture competition. 

“After several successful early launches of our smart pill bottle caps and software platform, we’re thrilled to be taking our company to the next level in Tulsa,” Aertker said.

The featured photo is of PatchRx founders Gavin Buchanan (left) and Andrew Aertker, courtesy photo.

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