The B2B team talks to Chea Vireak, director and founder of Western Pharmacy, about the medical and pharmaceutical sector within the Kingdom.
B2B: What new developments are underway in the medical and pharmaceutical industry in Cambodia?
Chea Vireak: In terms of pharmacies that have recently popped up, we have Guardian Pharmacy. Guardian is under Dairy Farm Lucky. They are well known in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, although they’re all over Asia. Within a year, they have already opened six. We are trying to cooperate with them trying to promote modern-type pharmacies. The objective is to help people in the Kingdom to recognize good standards in the industry.
B2B: How does Western Pharmacy differentiate itself from competition?
Chea Vireak: At Western Pharmacy, we offer to our patients FREE blood pressure and sugar check-ups and education. We believe that prevention is better than treatment, and we hope our patients will take advantage of this free services from our certified pharmacists. Furthermore, we strongly believe in continuous training to our pharmacists as that’s the core value of Western Pharmacy. We spend countless hours training with our staff to make sure they are knowledgeable and can represent our brand for many years to come.
B2B: There was a recent crackdown on pharmacies working without a license and selling counterfeit medications in Phnom Penh. What’s your take on this?
Chea Vireak: I think the Ministry of Health is doing its best to make pharmacies comply with local laws and regulations. However, I think it will take some time to tell whether this ‘crackdown approach’ is effective or not. Close one pharmacy down and ten more will open. In order to make pharmacies adhere to local regulations, this cannot be the only way. Alongside these efforts, the public and the students need to be educated on why it is important to go to a certified pharmacy. We have a lot of work ahead but we must start with the pharmacy students and educating the patients. In short, cracking down on pharmacies without licenses is a good start, but you also need mass public awareness and education.
B2B: What are some of the changes in terms of regulation and standards that you would like to see?
Chea Vireak: I’d like to see implementation of laws and regulations already in existance. It can be something as simple as storing medications at the proper temperature. I’d like to see every pharmacy doing that. Traditional-style pharmacies are open air. That means that medications are exposed to significantly higher temperatures than they should be, because our country is hot.
I would like to see every pharmacy with a certified pharmacist on duty. Oftentimes, when a pharmacist retires, his son or daughter takes over, even though they might not be a qualified pharmacist. We have laws on this particular issue, but they are not implemented. On the bright side, the MoH is doing what it can to enforce legislation and solve the problem.
In addition, I would love to see all pharmacists work within their scope of practice. For example, don’t diagnose or prescribe antibiotics to patients. Leave that to physicians and doctors. Pharmacists can consult and recommend over-the-counter medications for the patients according to their symptoms.
Then there are issues regarding record keeping and patient confidentiality. Record keeping is challenging because patients are quite suspicious and reticent about giving out information. This is something we need to work on, because it is imperative that we don’t give you drugs that are mutually incompatible. The only way of knowing what was given the day before is by keeping records. Patient confidentiality is very important for us. Only the patient and us—the healthcare providers—can access this information.
We are working on prescription labeling as well—we are working on incorporating it into an internal POS. The fact that we are working on this makes us different: even big pharmacies don’t see this as a big priority as it’s not an income generator. For us, it’s a priority. There is already regulation out there for prescription labeling, but no retail pharmacy is really doing it. I’m trying to get other pharmacies to work together with me on this.
B2B: How do you think ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration will change standards in the industry?
Chea Vireak: AEC will bring an influx of skilled workers into the country, pushing the industry to the next level. This is important because in order to be sustainable, we really need to push ourselves to be at that level. Working in this new environment will help us notice our weaknesses, so that we improve and push ourselves to be better. It’s a really exciting time. It’s going to bring a lot of competition in too, which is a healthy thing; we can use it to share ideas and work together. So I welcome all investors from all over the world to come to Cambodia and help us increase the standards for everyone. Thank you!