The pharmaceutical industry in Malaysia is very different as compared to other countries. What makes it so different is that pharmacies in the country function as a place not only to dispense medicine and prescribed drugs but is often regarded as a one-stop center to buy other items as well.
The concept of pharmacies
In countries like the United States and Japan, pharmacies are dispensary outlets to buy medication. The process in Malaysia is totally different. A person with a medical condition will consult a doctor with which the clinic will then dispense the appropriate medicine as prescribed by the doctor. This is all done in the same place. Pharmacies are outlets where the patient can buy additional medicine if required.
- In most cases, customers can buy over-the-shelf medicine such as Panadol and external medicine.
- For controlled drugs, the customer would need to consult the pharmacist on duty. This is where the customer will either produce a prescription (by a certified doctor) or register with the pharmacist in order to purchase the drug.
It must be noted that in other countries, the patient who has consulted a doctor will be given a prescription that must be produced at the pharmacy to buy the drug. This means that there is a clear distinction of role between the doctor (clinic) and the pharmacist (pharmacy).
Types of Pharmacies in Malaysia
Generally, there are 3 types of pharmacies in Malaysia that serve different market segments. They can be categorized as follow:
- Specialized pharmacies – This category involves pharmacies that sell products and services for people with special needs for instance, a pharmacy that only sells wheelchairs and walking aids. Such pharmacies usually serve patients that are referred to by medical centers and clinics.
- Stand-alone pharmacies – Such pharmacies are usually location-based. They serve people of a certain community, offering basic services like blood pressure and blood test (sent to third party centers). These pharmacies usually offer more than just medication.
- Generic pharmacies – This refers to the type of pharmacies which have many branches, usually across the country. This includes the likes of AA Pharmacy, Caring and Big Pharmacy, to name a few.
AA Pharmacy is a home-grown name in this sector. The first store was opened in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur back in 1999. Since then, AA Pharmacy has grown by leaps and bounds and now has more than 30 branches across the Klang Valley. Offering low-price and affordable products, customers know AA Pharmacy as the place to go for its broad range of brands and options.
Vitacare Pharmacy is one of the oldest names in this sector having been established more than 30 years ago. Besides offering medication, drugs and such, Vitacare is known for offering organic and herbal products as well. Besides that, they sell alternative medicine products totaling to more than 200 different names through its large network of branches across the country.
Hong Kong-based Watsons has been operating in Malaysia for many years now. To date, it has grown to over 400 outlets. It must be noted that Watsons is a popular retailer of not just medication but snacks, health supplements and toiletries as well. In fact, it houses more than a thousand different brands in its stores. Watsons’ customers enjoy a loyalty program through Watsons’ collaboration with Touch ‘n Go that comes with discounts and special promotions periodically.
Established back in 1994 by a group of enterprising pharmacists, the Caring Pharmacy brand has grown to become synonymous with healthcare and daily needs. The idea of Caring Pharmacy was to provide pharmacist services through an open-concept store. This has enabled Caring Pharmacy to grow and has since expanded to over a hundred stores nationwide.
Health Lane Family Pharmacy
The Health Lane Family Pharmacy has been around for more than 30 years now. To date, it operates more than 50 branches which are all available in the Klang Valley. Health Lane Family Pharmacy offers a one-stop center for its customers who need to consult the pharmacist, nutritionist or dietician when required.
The original idea of Multicare Pharmacy is to help and improve the quality of healthcare for the community. The name has been around for about 20 years now where they operate more than 40 branches with more than 55 licensed pharmacists to serve the customers. With a nationwide presence, Multicare Pharmacy is surely making inroads to be one of the top pharmacists in the country.
Guardian is a home-grown brand which has been around for more than half a decade now. However, it has been reinventing its brand in recent years and has been growing to neighboring countries as well. Today, there are over 400 Guardian outlets across the country. It must be noted that not all outlets have pharmacists on duty which mean customers might not be able to buy prescribed drugs in those outlets.
Tigas Alliance has been around for about 20 years now. It operates over 15 branches and is known for its marketing programs and promotions which resonate very well with the members of its community.
Big Pharmacy is quite a reputable pharmacy brand in Malaysia. It has been around for more than 10 years now but has been mostly known for being a community-based pharmacy which means it usually operates around the residential areas and certain retail outlets. Of late, Big Pharmacy has been expanding quite aggressively and has now over 40 outlets.