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e-Pharmacy has potential to hit 20%-30% of pharma market share in Malaysia, says Alpro

KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 25): The electronic prescription pharmaceutical industry (e-pharmacy) has huge potential in Malaysia and can garner up to a 20%-30% market share.

In an email interview, Alpro Pharmacy co-founder and e-pharmacy pharmacist lead Dr Hiew Fei Tsong told theedgemarkets.com that in Malaysia, there are close to 25,000 registered pharmacists and 3,000 registered retail pharmacies as of this year.

He said they contribute about RM8 billion revenue per annum.

“Most of these retail pharmacies are operating in a brick-and-mortar model, with only a few providing e-pharmacy solutions.

“Most chronic disease patients currently are refilling their medication at either government facilities or retail pharmacies,” he said.

Hiew added that with the increasing popularity of e-commerce, coupled with the movement control order (MCO) due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was higher demand for e-pharmacy in the past two years.

He said the e-pharmacy segment contributes more than 5% of Alpro's total revenue, adding that after the lifting of the MCO, there was still steady growth in the segment.

“Our e-pharmacy users can be categorised into three demographics — urban city dwellers, the suburban elderly and international customers,” he said.

However, Hiew flagged that in Malaysia, the adoption rate of e-pharmacy solutions is still low.

Among the reasons he highlighted for this are that consumers are doubtful of the authenticity of medication purchased online as the process could be “too easy” to get medication as well as consumers not being fully aware of benefits of e-pharmacy, especially for value-added services.

Another major obstacle is the challenges that arise when it comes to the technology involved as most pharmacies have insufficient knowledge and funding.

Hiew also pointed out that the adoption rate among pharmacies is dependent on medication delivery turnaround time.

He explained that medication is temperature-sensitive and best delivered within two hours to maintain the efficacy (unless it is protected in a temperature control box).

“Most independent pharmacies have presence only in one or two locations, thus limiting their coverage,” he said.

He added that there is also a legal lacuna, in that while the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated under the purview of the Ministry of Health, the main governing Act, however, does not cover the scope of e-pharmacy.

“There is an absence of a clear regulatory framework to support e-pharmacy and the benefits it brings to consumers,” he said.

Hiew also cautioned against fake service providers.

He said a legal e-pharmacy usually appears on either a self-owned website or had an official store in an e-commerce marketplace.

“By consulting a real professional pharmacist, you are being protected by the Act and regulations.

“Only a certified pharmacist is authorised to consult, advise and dispense based on their best practice,” he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on the recent floods that hit various states in Malaysia, Hiew said medication exposed to floods may become contaminated.

“This contamination may lead to serious health effects. We recommend for the medication to be discarded and replaced with new batches.

“Medication such as insulin which needs to be stored in a refrigerator should be discarded as well. They are temperature-sensitive and may lose potency if not refrigerated. They need to be replaced immediately,” he added.


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