Access to Healthcare


7 April 2021

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Delivering our purpose by harnessing the best of our history and technology

Ageing populations, changing patient expectations and the evolving burden of disease are key contributors to rapidly increasing healthcare costs in Asia. The region, long affected by infectious diseases, is now tackling a significant rise in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is exacerbated by uneven access to healthcare services – particularly in large rural populations – due to underdeveloped infrastructure and a healthcare manpower crunch.

COVID-19 has magnified these issues, with vulnerable and rural communities bearing the brunt of this impact. Finding solutions requires close collaboration between multiple stakeholders from the public and private sectors. Given our unique position in the industry, Zuellig Pharma plays a vital role as a connector, driving collaboration across the healthcare ecosystem so that more parties can be involved to make healthcare more accessible to everyone.

Ensuring access to healthcare, even to remote populations

According to the World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO), half the world still lacks access to essential health services. As many as 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses. This explains why one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve universal health coverage. This is where populations have access to quality healthcare services without financial risk and instead with affordable essential medicines, and vaccines being a priority.

As a major distributor of healthcare products in Asia for close to a century, we have been working hard to address this issue. We are the leader in many markets in terms of warehouse and cold storage facilities and have accelerated expansion plans over the past year to ensure that we have sufficient capacity to store and distribute medicines and vaccines across the region. This is especially important considering the increased demand for cold chain solutions and other vaccine-related services. Our total warehouse capacity across the region currently stands at close to 392,000 pallets, with over 80 distribution centres in 13 markets across Asia. We make approximately 20 million deliveries yearly, received 16 million shipments during the same time and more than 28,000 brands are handled by our distribution operations. 

Our Distribution Centres (DCs) are supported by a network of branches or sales offices and are strategically located to perform distinct roles nationally and regionally. Each DC has various levels of planned redundancies in its systems and equipment to ensure sustained delivery of critical services under extreme conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We have robust business continuity plans that enable us to be agile and responsive in urgent times. These include close monitoring of unpredictable situations, assessing risks, keeping key groups informed and following a carefully prepared action plan to respond quickly and appropriately as a situation unfolds.

Our cold chain capabilities also include our eZCooler solution, an environmentally friendly innovation that extends the storage time of temperature-sensitive products in transit from two days with a traditional system, to four days. This provides peace of mind for patients, doctors, and clients, even when products are delivered to remote parts of Asia. As eZCooler is reusable, it greatly reduces emissions and costs to get much needed medicines to those who need them the most.

Leveraging technology to ensure continued healthcare access

COVID-19 has caused huge disruptions in the healthcare industry. Innovation and collaboration are key to address this unprecedented challenge; combining our in-market cold chain expertise and our technological solutions with the resources of leading tech companies will help us support governments to overcome these issues in the communities we serve.

We expedited the launch of several digital platforms to capitalise on the shift towards virtual transactions with the rise of remote working and limitations on in-person interaction. We rolled out eZRx, an interactive engagement portal for our customers to place orders for prescription drugs, medical devices and consumer health products, anytime, anywhere. In the Philippines, we launched eZConsult, a virtual care network giving patients access to comprehensive healthcare services wherever they are.

As more COVID-19 vaccines are approved, each with their unique requirements, it is crucial to address the main challenges that will drive vaccination uptake. This includes proper storage and transport of vaccines and giving people the confidence to get vaccinated. We launched eZVax, a vaccine management solution that enables governments and the private sector to manage all aspects of vaccine distribution and administration. eZVax was developed in collaboration with professional services company Accenture and built with Microsoft technology. It features Zuellig Pharma’s proprietary blockchain-based eZTracker application which enables instant verification of the provenance and authenticity of vaccines and other healthcare products.

Prioritising patients and promoting adherence

Our CareConnect team has prioritised the development and refinement of our digital platforms to roll out more patient programmes. We are channelling efforts into the i-Switch+ app, which aims to improve affordability by keeping records of chronic patients’ drug purchases and dispensing a free box with each one purchased. It also allows doctors to monitor their patients, ensuring patients stick to the course of their medications.

In Malaysia, we are also providing complimentary services to facilitate payouts to suspected cases of COVID-19 who adhere to stay-home quarantine guidelines. Our subsidiary MiCare supports these services and helps to process claims for mySalam – a free national takaful protection scheme for Malaysians in need of financial assistance. MiCare, together with Pfizer Malaysia and Tokio Marine Life Insurance Malaysia Bhd. Also jointly launched iEMBRACE, a patient assistance programme to support HR+/HER2- mBC patients, helping them to better manage their finances and gain access to innovative medicines.

Partnering with governments

Beyond our daily operations, Zuellig Pharma is engaging in dialogue with members of the healthcare industry and government, to work towards a unified system that makes healthcare more accessible to the communities that we serve.

We have also worked with governments in all our markets in various ways, including support on COVID-19 efforts through various activities:

-We are actively working with governments to distribute COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in close to half of the markets we serve. 
-In Singapore, our team worked around the clock as we partnered with the country’s Ministry of Health to deliver surgical masks to front line medical staff islandwide.
-In the Philippines, we launched Project Kaagapay to bring immediate aid to frontline healthcare professionals by providing personal protective equipment for hospitals and ventilators for COVID-19 referral hospitals, while partnering with local governments to improve their strategies in the containment, management and treatment of COVID-19; and
-In Vietnam, we donated US$600,000 worth of eZCoolers to support the quality of its cold chain in transporting vaccines and other temperature-sensitive medicines.
-In Cambodia, we partnered with PanTheryx, Inc. to donate 12,000 doses of DiaResQ - an anti-diarrheal nutritional product - to the National Paediatric Hospital in Phnom Penh.

As we move towards a more collaborative healthcare ecosystem, we are always on the lookout for like-minded partners who we can work with to improve health outcomes for the communities we serve.