Pharmacy is concentrating on quality of care to capture a
slice of the rapidly expanding health care sector in Cambodia
DeVenco Vice President Christophe Forsinetti.
Pharmalink, one of Cambodia's newest chains of pharmacies, has opened three locations in Phnom Penh since its inception last year and plans to open 10 by the end of 2010.
The chain was started by Phnom Penh-based investment consultants DeVenco.
"Asian people are really concerned about their image, their health, the small products that you can use, especially women," explained DeVenco Vice President Christophe Forsinetti.
"And that attitude is emerging in Cambodia, with the middle class that can now afford to buy more products."
Forsinetti defines families who earn between $300 and $1,000 a month as middle class.
"You have more and more of those people in Phnom Penh," he said.
"They are the people starting to consume. They are the ones buying cars, motorcycles, or all the news services that you see in Phnom Penh."
Lead on quality
In targeting that middle class, Pharmalink has decided to ensure it provides quality service by demanding that customers present prescriptions before buying certain drugs, Forsinetti said.
"Health care is very specific. You need to deliver quality and you have responsibilities," he said.
"If you sell something to a person and you're not supposed to, and that person has a problem or dies because of that prescription, then you're in trouble - and we cannot bear that responsibility."
He acknowledged that many people would rather save themselves the effort of obtaining a prescription by buying pharmaceuticals from any of the thousands of other pharmacies in Phnom Penh.
This may be true, but it doesn't make the practice any less dangerous.
And, as Forsinetti states, health care ought to be much more regulated.
"It's our role to take the lead and try to put some industry standards in place," he said.
Asian people are really concerned about their image, their health, the small products that you can use.
Keeping it real
Another pertinent issue that Pharmalink must deal with is the counterfeiting of drugs. Pharmaceuticals may have misappropriated brand labels, or may not even have the chemicals they purport to contain.
"I would say this is much more common with very small pharmacies," explained Forsinetti.
"They will try to pull the prices as low as possible, so they are likely to buy from people importing drugs illegally from Vietnam and Thailand."
He explained that Pharmalink aims to buy their products exclusively from reputed laboratories and distributors.
However, counterfeit drugs remain a reality for all Cambodian pharmaceutical businesses. "It's never 100 percent bullet-proof," Forsinetti admits.