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Africa Outlook

Alpha Pharm
South African healthcare
pharmaceutical industry

ALPHA PHARM

South Africa’s Pharmaceutical Custodian

Alpha Pharm continues to serve the medical and care needs of millions of South African citizens through its 920-strong network of pharmacies

Writer: Tom Wadlow 

Project Manager: Lewis Bush

South Africa’s pharmaceutical industry is big business. 

A recently released report by Research and Markets found that the sector contributed somewhere between R42.6 and R45 billion to the country’s economy in 2016, this revenue generated by 276 companies officially licensed by the Department of Health and the Medical Controls Council. 

One such company is Alpha Pharm. Headquartered in Centurion, it is the largest wholesaler of pharmaceutical goods in South Africa, distributing an enormous portfolio of products via sites spread around the country. This wholesale operation supports Alpha Pharm’s group of independent community pharmacies, the largest of its kind in South Africa at 920 outlets. 

Thousands of the products sold to the public through the pharmacy network are Alpha Pharm’s own brand, for example Alpha Clin. From bathing and burn care solutions to first aid essentials and personal hygiene products, the full spectrum of goods can be sourced and sold to those in need. 

In terms of health services, Alpha Clin Clinics provide a range of care and treatments, including family planning, injections, wound care, blood pressure tests, pregnancy services and more. 

One company, 920 pharmacies 

At the end of 2014, the South African Competition Commission approved a crucial merger which saw Alpha Pharm’s group of regional pharmaceutical distributors merge into the single company it operates under today.

Having received a R350 million investment from Swiss firm Shogun Holdings und Finanz for 51 percent of the new entity, the structure sees the remaining 49 percent of shares issued to the network of pharmacies. 

In a statement released at the time of the deal, Alpha Pharm said: “The formation of the national company is a major boost for the 900 independent community pharmacies that own 49 percent of the new shares and for the community pharmacy sector as a whole.

“The new Alpha Pharm will put all its energies into ensuring that its pharmacies compete in a market increasingly dominated by major retail chains.”

Care, service, value 

This is reflected by three core pillars that underpin Alpha Pharm’s current offering – ‘our special care’, ‘our better service’ and ‘our improved value’. 

The first of these, care, revolves around how Alpha Pharm reacts to the needs of customers and their families through its experienced team of pharmacists, whose knowledge and caring interest is what the company champions as setting itself apart from the rest. Even by its own admission on Alpha Pharm’s website, “care seems to be one of those overused words that has lost its meaning or value”. However, it claims to put the human touch back into care through its 920 pharmacies. 

Service again relates to the expertise and knowledge of Alpha Pharm’s employees, whether it be filling scripts or offering advice regarding medicines or alternate therapies. 

Helping to ensure its pharmacists are kept abreast of the latest scientific thinking in areas such as diabetes, asthma, malaria, HIV and depression, among others, is an education programme called Insight Medicine Information. Established for more than 25 years, Insight specialises in providing clinically relevant and practical education courses for pharmacy workers which have developed by South African experts and tailored to the country’s healthcare guidelines and circumstances. 

Furthering the claim of superior service, the Company has also just launched a new programme called Alpha Script across more than half of its pharmacies, a scheme which allows the store to receive doctor-prescribed orders.  

Access to healthcare

Whether its provision of care or the price of its medicines, Alpha Pharm’s third pillar of success revolves around offering value. 

Indeed, according to the Research and Markets report, ‘The Pharmaceutical Industry in South Africa 2017’, one of the key challenges facing South Africa’s pharmaceutical industry is improving access to affordable medicines and healthcare products and services. 

Given the general economic picture, the need to achieve more with fewer resources is apparent, but Alpha Pharm’s formidable network appears able to withstand economic ups and downs. Such is the organisation’s size and resultant buying power, it is able to provide South Africans its vital healthcare products and services at affordable prices. 

This process is also strengthened by a centralised procurement operation which handles major cost responsibilities such as stock purchasing, and setting up and renovating stores.  

Do Good, Feel Great

Beyond supplying crucial medical products and services across South Africa, Alpha Pharm is also engaged in a campaign to positively spread its influence across society. 

The Do Good, Feel Great Campaign is a competition with the stated aim to “invite voluntary participants to enter who wish to make a difference and have a meaningful impact on the lives of those less fortunate in South Africa”. 

The Company is inviting all South African citizens above the age of 21 to enter, and 10 main winners will be selected to act as brand and community ambassadors for a year, working with a charity of their choosing. These charities will receive a R10,000 donation from Alpha Pharm, with the ambassador responsible for engaging multiple times throughout the year to see where the finance has been spent and what impact this has had on the community in question. 

As an added bonus, the 10 winners will receive a new car courtesy of Alpha Pharm, the first year of which will see the Fiat Pandas wrapped with company imagery as a branding exercise. 

By reaching out into the communities it serves, not only through its pharmacies and related services but also programmes such as Do Good, Feel Great, Alpha Pharm looks set to strengthen its status as a healthcare custodian across South Africa.