Rethinking pharmaceutical tenders

Katharina Kittelberger

Startup Stories

Pharmaceutical tenders are established and a successful instrument to reduce drug costs in Germany! Pharmaceutical companies can contribute to cost savings by entering rebate contracts with sick funds. In return, successfull participation will strengthen their market position Seems like a win-win situation, but handling these contracts comes with high manual effort and time consuming process steps for different departments within a pharmaceutical company. 

The startup niuli, founded in 2021, offers digital assistants to help their customers to automatically monitor drug tenders and the entire market environment. This saves a lot of time in tender management with the help of digitalization and standardization. "We were realizing," said Magdalena Dorn, co-founder and market access specialist, "that until now there was no automated solution for this time-consuming and laborious process. That's why we decided to tackle this problem."

In an interview with 5-HT, Magdalena, together with Co-Founder and CEO Alexander Renner, explains us their approach.

Magdalena Dorn, Co-Founder and Market Access Specialist together with Co-Founder and CEO Alexander Renner

Dealining with pharmaceutical tenders is not a daily task for most people. How did you come up with the idea of optimizing this area?  

"That's true," smiles Magdalena, "but in fact this process was an everyday problem for me for several years in my former job. I was in charge of tenders for pharmaceutical companies. During that time, I was starting to wonder if there is a digital solution for the recurring process steps that need to be done over and over again for every single tender," she explains. 

To the point: What does niuli do? 

"Basically, our unique concept is a unique database," so Alexander. "Our current focus are pharmaceutical tenders, which are concluded between two parties: statutory health insurers and pharmaceutical companies.

Based on this knowledge database, niuli offers digital and customized assistance to its customers that not only simplifies the process of dealing with tenders through standardization, but also makes it more transparent and fair. 

We act as the intermediary between these two players, addressing the interests of both.

Alexander continues: "We are guided by three simple rules: the automation of processes, the relevance of the information required and the focus on teamwork. We are convinced that a lack in just one of these three points will cause major problems for our customers.

"Because currently there is uncertainty due to inconsistency."

With these words, Magdalena describes the following scenario: "In general, there is an enormous number of pitfalls due to diversity of requirements. For example, pharmaceutical companies can be disqualified simply because of mistakes in the paperwork, which is of course a huge threat that the responsible employees of a pharmaceutical company always have in the back of their minds."

Alexander adds further: "This is exactly why we are convinced: This can and should be optimized. The key benefit of niuli is faster and simpler management of pharma tenders through structuring, digitization and standardization." Therefore, we guarantee that every tender, no matter what sick fund, will be provided with all its information in a standardized way. 

The benefit seems clear now. But how does niuli profit from this concept?  

"Currently, our goal is to generate as much data as possible," says Alexander. "For this reason, we are currently looking at monetization options within the pharma industry. We are able to do that by offering them our solution as a cloud application (software-as-a-service)," he continues.

“The important thing is," Magdalena adds, "that we break this process down into small, modular components. With this approach, each customer receives support for the exact process step, that they need help with. Another advantage of the modular structure is, that we can continue to develop our products together with our customers. In this way we are able to generate the biggest benefit.

Thanks to our tool, our customers no longer have to dig through the vast amount of data, but can conveniently view all relevant information with just a few clicks.

Our services are provided as an annual licence. In general, niuli is convinced that it will be easier for everyone if the basic information is provided in a standardized way, thus allowing the responsible persons to focus on the strategic tasks. "In this context," says Magdalena, "niuli's concept is unique on the market."

We are connecting data that previously existed only separately", 

Alexander emphasizes. "Through this interconnection, the niuli Planner can offer our customers unique insights." Magdalena adds that "trends and tendencies become visible, which otherwise would have to be extracted manually with great effort."

Until now, responsible employees had to register on various platforms in order to extract and compile the required data themselves. Usually, compiling the datais done in huge Excel spreadsheets. "This is not only an enormous amount of time spent manually," says Magdalena, "but also extremely error-prone." 

The advantage with niuli is that all data is already presented in an aggregated way, which means that the customer only gets data that is relevant to him.

“We also ensure that every tender includes the same amount of information”,

Magdalena points out, that "a tender from an AOK, for example, does not look like a tender from the Techniker Krankenkasse. In addition, answers to standard questions such as "Which substance is requested and in which dosage form?" or "By when and in what way do I have to submit the tender documents?“ currently still have to be extracted from complex text," she explains. 

This is where niuli helps through digitalization, automation and standardization. All made possible by niuli's unique database.

That sounds like a lot of success so far. Nevertheless, have there also been setbacks? 

"We plan for setbacks on a daily basis," Alexander laughs. "But that also makes us work in a very agile way. We make fast decisions , present them to our customers and ultimately, listen carefully to what they have to say about them. That's why we're constantly learning," he emphasizes.

"At the same time, this is exactly what we're especially proud of," Magdalena says, "We are the first to rethink and modernize this market, that has a lot of potential."

The pharmaceutical industry in Germany is below average when it comes to digitization.

niuli is only a few months old, where do you see yourselves in five years?

Alexander tells us that "we will become the standard tool for the pharmaceutical tender business. We already have a lot of ideas on how to extend our servicesso we can provide even more value to our customers."

On the other hand, niuli plans to i not only work with statutory health insurers and pharmaceutical companies, but to potentially extend their service for pharmacies and other stakeholders of the healthcare system. "Because we also see potential beyond the borders of Germany, we would like to expand niuli to the European market at some point," Alexander adds.

It was really great that 5-HT contacted us. Since then, we have received many requests from investors and VC's.

Magdalena adds: "We were surprised by those requests because we never saw ourselves as part of the start-up world. But after contacting 5-HT, everything happened very quickly.

Now we are happy to be involved," she emphasizes in conclusion.

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