[Interview] Navigating the OEM Health Supplement Journey: Lessons and Experiences Shared by Independent Pharmacies

Manfye Goh's picture

Manfye Goh

Apr 12, 2023 . 13 min read

Manfye Goh's picture

[Interview] Navigating the OEM Health Supplement Journey: Lessons and Experiences Shared by Independent Pharmacies

In today's competitive healthcare landscape, the Awesome Pharmacies Alliance (APA) stands out as a shining example of the power of unity and collaboration. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the journey of the APA, exploring their motivation for creating OEM health supplements, the challenges they faced during product development, and their commitment to ensuring product safety and efficacy. Additionally, we discuss the organization's future plans for expanding its product line and goals for fostering a sustainable healthcare ecosystem. Read on to discover valuable advice for those looking to enter the OEM market and learn how newcomers can join the APA in working towards a common goal.

What is APA?

APA is short for Awesome Pharmacies Alliance. We are a group of community pharmacies coming together to cooperate, working to ensure that we are sustainable and build a better platform for ourselves.

How do you get into making OEM health supplements?

Basically, the main intention was so that we can have control over our own destinies. Many of us had been frustrated by suppliers changing their terms and conditions whenever they want to. There were also occasions when suppliers refused to supply to us after we had built the market for them. In that case, when customers come back for the product, they would find that they can no longer get it from us, but they can get it from our competitor. Ultimately, it led to us losing our customers.

We were lucky to have a friend who introduced us to OEM. While it may not be the best deal we can ever get, his guidance had been most valuable at the time we know next to nothing about OEM.

Is it hard to develop an OEM product alone as an independent pharmacist?

It definitely needs some reading, researching and work, but I guess if you have the mentality that nothing is hard, then it isn't. I believe if you take the time and prepare for it and make a plan, a lot of the difficulties get taken away. As an example, during your preparation and planning stage, you foresee that you might run into a cash flow problem. As such, you might have come out with some strategies to overcome that problem like creating a budget and making sure that you have sufficient reserve funds just in case something went wrong. Even if something you had not expected goes wrong, it is very important to remain positive and work out a solution. Sometimes, if you had done extensive planning and preparation for a lot of negative possibilities but none of those possibilities came through, it is a good thing as you were aware of those things and made sure it had not come about and it was something you did not expect that became a challenge.

As this question asked about the difficulty of developing a product alone, sometimes it is just that you encounter problems that you are not able to solve by yourself. If that happens, don't be afraid to reach out and seek help. It is likely that someone you know is capable of helping you solve it.

We were not alone when we developed our product. The core group within us had almost always covered each other's backs. Indeed one person did most of the work, reading, planning and so on. It may be a blessing though because the more people involved in the decision-making process, the more complicated and possibly longer it takes. However, the roles of the others who supported the effort in one way or another cannot be underestimated.

Any challenges faced during the development process?

I believe there are too many challenges to cover in detail in one article. I would just list it briefly and if readers are interested, I will cover it in more detail in the future.

1. Identifying and understanding the target market.

The first thing you need to do is to identify a market which is big enough so that you will be able to make some money while helping these people. Identifying the target market is important so that you can look into their problem, identify the root cause of their problem and then the ingredient(s) necessary to help them.

2. Identifying what ingredients will help the target market

After understanding the pathophysiology of the target market, you will most likely be able to know what ingredients will be able to help these people and understand the mechanism behind it. In a way, it is like prescribing ingredients.

3. Formulating the active ingredient(s) into a consumable dosage form

Once you have got a list of ingredients you are happy with, you will need to formulate them into something that is palatable and can be easily consumed. It is a lot like formulating medicine. You have to think of keeping the ingredients stable, making sure they are released at the desired time, the taste is pleasant and so on.

4. Planning and building the distribution system.

A product, no matter how good it is, is not going to be of any use if it cannot get to the people who need it. You will need to identify and convince the people who you want to distribute the product to do it for you. After that, you will need to take care of your distribution system so that the pipeline continues to deliver your goods to the consumers.

5. Troubleshooting and maintenance

After all the hard work had been done, you would want to work on a way to preserve what you had built, making sure everything runs smoothly.

How to ensure the safety and efficiency of the product?

As above, there are many ways to ensure the quality and efficiency of the products and I would just list them down briefly:

1. Read and gather useful information

In this era, there is a lot of information available through the internet. As such, you must be able to differentiate reliable information so that you can choose the best ingredients for your target market. By learning about the target market's condition and pathophysiology, you will understand the mechanism by which each ingredient helps these people. Only by giving these people what they need will their condition improve and only by understanding what they need will you be able to produce a product that has the ingredients needed.

2. Look for a reliable manufacturer or supplier

After knowing what you need for your product(s), you will need to find reliable people to help you source good quality ingredients and put them together into a stable and consumable product.

3. Look for reliable retailers

Retailers' roles are also important in making sure that consumers know how to use their products to improve their conditions. Even if it is a good product, if it is not used properly, it may not be effective or it may be less effective than it would have been if used correctly. Retailers will also help consumers monitor their progress and to provide follow-up and assistance if things do not go according to plan.

4. Don't be afraid to change for the better

Remember you would want your product to be effective so that customers would come back to buy more. Always be accepting of constructive criticism and be on the lookout to improve your product.

5. Most important

The thing you need to always keep in mind is that your effort shows in the product you produced. The more effort you put into it, the more effective and competitive it will be.

Any plan for developing new products or expanding your product line?

Yes, we have. In fact, we had adopted three principles to evaluate the viability of our future products which we named the ACE principles, as below:

1. Affordable

We believe a product needs to be affordable so that it can help as many people as possible. What is the point if people who need the product cannot afford it?

2. Competitive

We believe a product needs to be able to compete in the market in order to be sustainable for a long period of time. If it is not competitive, it may either not be able to break into the market or even if it does, it will have a hard time sustaining itself.

3. Effective

Lastly, if the product is not effective, consumers will not come back to purchase it.

If the product has these 3 principles, we can expect returning customers. As such, retailers will have sustained revenue and will have confidence in recommending the product. When this happens, we have a sustainable business model that benefits the whole distribution chain and the consumers as well.

Any challenges you anticipate in the future?

There had been a lot of changes in the healthcare industry lately so much so that community pharmacy practice or even medical practice may not be sustainable in the near future. Definitely, something needs to be done to ensure we have a healthy and sustainable healthcare system. It will take time and there is a lot of work to be done. However, none of this can be achieved without unity, not just within the pharmacy profession but beyond it as well.

Any goals you have for the future?

Our immediate goal is to unite like-minded health professionals to work together towards a common goal that not only benefits community pharmacists but everybody in the healthcare system as well.

Lastly, what advice would you give to people who want to start their own OEM?

I guess in a way, all the above is advice, but perhaps I list down what I believe is most important that you should consider:

1. Learn everything you can about the product, the market, and so on. This will significantly improve your chance of success. Do your research on the internet. Talk to people who had done it before. If possible, get a mentor.

2. Don't just focus on getting the product into the market. I believe that is the easy part. The hard part is making sure the product is capable of staying in the market and that you are capable of sustaining it in the market.

3. Don't focus solely on the product. Take some time to look at your potential customers, the market, your competitor, your supplier and so on.

4. Lastly, come talk to us. We may have a market for you or be able to help you support the market.

How can a new Independent Pharmacy join APA?

We have criteria to accept new members. Basically, one needs to be willing to work together towards a common objective. As such, we don't mind if the interested party is a new IP or someone who had been in the business for years.

The way we see it, there is no point in joining an alliance, if it does not in any way makes you better. On the other hand, the collective is only better if its members (the more, the better) contribute towards making it better. A chicken and egg question indeed, but for us, it is better to just start rather than to ponder on that question. Basically, the stronger we are, the stronger you will be and the stronger we are, the stronger we will be. So, if you are interested, no matter how small you may think you are, let us know. Let's work together.

Feel free to contact us at:

Whatsapp: https://wa.me/60166618128

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100091057818101

Email: infoapagroup2023@gmail.com

Words from Authors:

In conclusion, the Awesome Pharmacies Alliance (APA) serves as a prime example of how independent pharmacies can come together, share their knowledge, and work collaboratively to develop and market their own OEM health supplements. The insights provided in this interview highlight the importance of thorough research, understanding the target market, and ensuring product safety and efficiency. Furthermore, APA's emphasis on unity and cooperation demonstrates the value of working together in a competitive healthcare landscape. For those independent pharmacies considering venturing into the OEM health supplement market, the invaluable experiences and lessons shared by the APA in this interview can serve as both inspiration and guidance for a successful journey ahead.

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