Strip District pharmacy services company raises $13.5 million in first-round funding

By Kris B. Mamula, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Strip District pharmacy technology services company Free Market Health has raised $13.5 million in series A funding, which will be used to expand operations, the company announced Tuesday.

Alta Partners, of San Francisco, led the Free Market financing round and Highmark Ventures, corporate venture capital investment arm of the Downtown-based hospital and health insurance giant, was a minority investor. Highmark partnered with Free Market in July 2021 to match members’ prescription drug needs with in-network specialty pharmacies.

Free Market, which employs about 40 people, coordinates pharmacy referrals and reimbursement for specialty drugs, which are high-cost medications used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic diseases. These medicines make up nearly half of Highmark’s expenditures for prescription drugs, said Sara Marche, senior vice president of pharmacy services.

“These are special, complex drugs that are often limited to certain specialty pharmacies,” she said.

Free Market, which was founded in 2019, matched thousands of specialty medical referrals and hundreds of millions of dollars in specialty medical expenditures during the past year, according to the company. The result was a 36% reduction in prescriptions that went unfilled.

The Free Market platform uses an online marketplace where contracted specialty pharmacies make offers on prescription authorizations, allowing any contracted pharmacy to bid on filling a member’s prescription. Moreover, contracted specialty pharmacies earn additional value-based reimbursement for eligible drugs.

“We exist to be unbiased,” Free Market Health Founder and CEO Joe Cardosi said. “Our absolute goal is to create a fair marketplace.”

Read the story on Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.