When it comes to medicine shopping, many consumers buy with a just-in-case mindset. While it is understandable that most do not want to be left helpless in a medical situation, stocking up on medicines which are then left unconsumed and expired can be costly to mankind and the environment in the long run.
There are thousands of pharmacies and clinics as well as hundreds of hospitals in Malaysia. All of them dispense medicines and many will end up in consumers’ medicine cabinets or drawers. Left unused, these medicines will be thrown into rubbish bins or flushed down the toilet, ending up in our water supply and damaging our flora and fauna.
The harsh reality is this – unwanted medicines that are carelessly disposed of can eventually find their way back into the ecosystem and adversely affect our livelihood.
Many are not aware of the effect of this seemingly harmless act while for those who are, they are clueless on what to do with their unwanted medications and instead continue to keep them, which is clearly not a long-term solution. Despite the mass consumption, the safe disposal of medicines has never been advocated as an important part of our lifestyle.
These concerns inspired CARiNG Pharmacy into taking the lead in providing a solution and creating awareness of the dangers of unsafe medicine disposal.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in Malaysia, it is our responsibility to ensure these medicines are safely disposed of for our environment, our future and that of the generations to come,” said Loo Jooi Leng, marketing director of CARiNG Pharmacy.
This paved the way for “Do It Right” – a campaign that encourages people to discard unwanted medicines safely and correctly.
To reach out to consumers, CARiNG embarked on a fully fledged communications journey – from making educational materials available in-store and spreading information online on video, microsite and social media posts across all major platforms – to grasping any opportunity to share and educate at relevant events.
The campaign also hit the streets with “Do It Right” vans and drop-off stations at all its stores nationwide for people to easily return their unwanted medicines free of charge.
Advocacy was in the form of a CARiNG pharmacist as a campaign ambassador engaging with the public on the ground as well as collaborations with companies and organisations, including Universiti Malaya in outreach programmes where “Do It Right” was introduced to target groups that could influence others in their respective communities.
CARiNG also took the opportunity of providing free health screening at health-related events to disseminate the message further, encouraging the safe disposal of medicines on the spot.
On the retail front, CARiNG had the advantage of a very strong membership pool to work with. Any of its two million members would receive 200 points that they could redeem in-store when they returned their unwanted medicines at any CARiNG stores.
As of March 2023, “Do It Right” successfully collected a total of 1,595 unwanted medicines and disposed of 2,291 kilograms worth. This strongly suggests that there is a significant amount of medicine wastage in Malaysia.
Along with that, CARiNG Pharmacy reminded the public that their pharmacists were ready to help in managing their medications better to avoid wastage by providing specialised health services such as the Monitored Dosage System and the Patient Medication Record.
For long-term impact on a greater scale, CARiNG’s collaboration with Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Pharmacy has culminated in a set of guidelines for this initiative which will be practised across all its stores nationwide upon release. This framework will be proposed to be used as the official guidelines for community pharmacies when they run their own medicine-disposal programme.
As a brand, CARiNG Pharmacy Group gained industry-wide recognition for this CSR initiative when “Do It Right” won silver at the Loyalty & Engagement Awards 2023.
“We are honoured to be awarded a Silver for ‘Best Use of CSR’ among countless other established companies,” Loo commented with pride. “We will continue to provide this complimentary service to all and spread awareness of safe medicine disposal to the masses.”
“Do It Right” is not just about safe medicine disposal. It highlights a range of major public health issues, from medicine wastage to non-compliance, to medications, that require time and the effort of many to work towards resolving them.
With 246 stores under the CARiNG Pharmacy Group, the “Do It Right” campaign will continue to add more convenient in-store collection points for unwanted medicines, increase awareness among the public, empower pharmacy students with the spirit and information on safe medicines disposal, and address all the public health concerns together.