Zuellig Pharma: Making Healthcare More Accessible

If you’ve taken any medicine lately in the Asia-Pacific region, it’s highly likely that Zuellig Pharma delivered it to your healthcare provider or pharmacy. Distributing pharmaceuticals is a complex business involving cold-chain management and other massive logistical challenges that most of us take for granted.

The company’s mission is to make healthcare more accessible to countries in the region by providing world-class distribution, commercial promotion, and digital services.

Zuellig Pharma began life in the Philippines almost a century ago and has since grown to be a US$13 billion business spanning 13 Asian nations. It is one of the largest healthcare-service groups in Asia, with a distribution network that covers nearly 350,000 clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and modern trade outlets.

Last year (2018) the company celebrated its 30th anniversary in Taiwan – its largest single business unit in terms of sales. John Chou, Zuellig Pharma Taiwan’s chief executive, says the company is Taiwan’s largest pharmaceutical and healthcare logistics company, serving over 30 multinational pharmaceutical and healthcare brands.

“Whether it’s drugs or medical devices, we have a market share of almost 50%,” Chou says. Every day, Zuellig Pharma delivers an average 5,000 to 10,000 shipments of pharmaceuticals and other medical products – including crucial vaccines – to some 15,000 drugstores, hospitals, and clinics across Taiwan, he says.

“We play a very important role in the supply chain,” Chou says. “Our role is to assure that medicines are securely and safely delivered to healthcare providers to ensure there is no disruption in patients’ treatment.”

But Zuellig Pharma’s role as a distributor involves more than just simple delivery.

The company has created an ecosystem in Taiwan in which multiple services, ranging from data analytics to patient care, are interconnected.

For example, one Zuellig Pharma service, “Clinical Reach,” provides end-to-end supply-chain solutions to help ensure that clinical trials and research projects run smoothly. The company’s sophisticated depot services make sure that these advanced medicines are available to the island’s medical research teams as needed.

Another service, “Data Analytics,” utilizes the data the company has accumulated from its various activities to create analytical reports and business intelligence for its clients. “Our data and analysis service is a big help to the manufacturers,” Chou says. “It enables them to identify just where they need to improve their business operation.”

Zuellig Pharma also helps pharmaceutical manufacturers conduct patient support programs. For example, it trains at least 50 Taiwan-certified nurses each year, educating them on the latest medications from Zuellig Pharma’s clients, the pharmaceutical companies. The nurses are then dispatched to hospitals and local clinics, where they can help provide patients with information on the treatments they are receiving, especially when new and innovative medications are involved.

“The manufacturers view this program as a valuable opportunity to help patients better understand their disease and any side-effects from the treatment,” Chou explains.

Medicine for certain illnesses such as cancer can be expensive, and the latest drugs and therapies may not yet have received approval from the National Health Insurance Administration to be eligible for reimbursement. Zuellig Pharma helps manufacturers create and manage programs for patients who need these medications but are unable to afford for all of them. The drug manufacturers either provide these medicines free or with discounts to enrolled and eligible patients, Chou says.

He also stresses Zuellig Pharma’s many corporate social responsibility programs.

For example, each year the corporation supports primary schools in remote parts of Taiwan, such as the mountainous areas of Hualien and Taitung counties, with donations of personal computers, laptops, and school books. “These activities bring Zuellig closer to the community,” Chou says.

Reflections on the Anniversary Celebration

After attending Zuellig Pharma Taiwan’s 30th anniversary event, AmCham Taipei President William Foreman posted the following on his LinkedIn page:

The firm is one of the best examples of an AmCham Taipei member company. It has a long history in Taiwan and is deeply invested in the country’s success. And it understands that Taiwan is an important market with plenty of potential.

The Zuellig Pharma Taiwan team pulled off one of the best corporate anniversary celebrations that I’ve ever attended. Such events usually focus on the past and present. But Zuellig Pharma used its celebration to look to the future and describe the company’s exciting new directions. For example, the firm just finished its first blockchain project and it’s exploring the potential of AI.

John Davison, Zuellig Pharma’s CEO, gave a fascinating talk about the importance of “thinking beyond the pill.” He described three key areas that will shape the healthcare industry. They included:

  • Predict and prevent, not just cure.
  • Harness and then leverage Big Data.
  • Partner to connect the healthcare ecosystem.

Davison said he thinks of Zuellig Pharma as being the “concierge to the healthcare sector” – a connector for the bricks-and-mortar side of the business as well as the digital space. It’s going to be exciting to watch how the company continues to grow.