Bayer And DOC2US Launch Family Planning Telepharmacy

RRAAM abortion hotline observed a 48% increase in requests for safe abortion services during the first Movement Control Order.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 11 — Bayer has introduced Malaysia’s first telepharmacy dedicated to family planning on DOC2US platform. The telepharmacy platform aims to empower women to take charge of their reproductive health and make informed family planning decisions through accessible oral contraceptive and free teleconsultation by pharmacists. 

Bayer, in joint effort with Alpro Pharmacy, BIG Pharmacy and telemedicine platform DOC2US have launched the first telepharmacy to empower and educate women on their reproductive health and family planning options.

Daily articles featured on the web and app version will enable users to engage and digest important health knowledge. DOC2US, the personal pocket doctor at your fingertips, allows users to virtually communicate with health care professionals anytime and anywhere.

Even walk-in clients can seamlessly consult with health care professionals from Alpro Pharmacy and BIG Pharmacy, can have their oral contraceptive pills (OCP) prescribed electronically, delivered for free (terms and conditions apply), or opt for self pick-up at the closest pharmacy.

The telepharmacy is now available on the DOC2US website and will be made available on the mobile app towards the end of August. 

“Rising concerns of Covid-19 exposure has accelerated the adoption of telemedicine in the country, where we see more Malaysians open to accepting virtual solutions as a safe and viable alternative in seeking health care in this new normal,” said Raymond Choy, CEO of DOC2US.

“We foresee this projection growing, driven by the fact DOC2US recorded over 200,000 signed e-prescriptions from June last year to May this year. The strong uptake of telemedicine in Malaysia in the recent months, coupled with consumer expectations to make greater use of digital health services in the next few years will enable us to cater to the tech-savvy community and offer them greater convenience, and especially to women, access to seeking contraceptive advice or prescription to help their health and enable family planning,” he added.

As people spend more time at home during the lockdown period, the frequency of unplanned pregnancies and unexpected parents to-be have been on the rise.

Many women are putting off face-to-face professional advice and medical consultations on their health and family planning needs due to Covid-19 restrictions and fear of contracting the virus.

As such, the lack of or the absence of family planning needs has very likely resulted in unplanned pregnancies. 

The statistics of unplanned pregnancies in Malaysia in the past decade shows an average rate of baby dumping occurring once every three days.

The number of unplanned pregnancies increased during the first phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) and was reflected in reports from the Reproductive Rights Advocacy Alliance Malaysia (RRAAM).

Their abortion hotline saw almost a tenfold increase in call traffic regarding late pregnancies, and concurrently, clinics reported a 50 per cent drop in patient visits, due to travel restrictions and financial struggles1.

It often goes undiscussed, but unplanned pregnancies can have negative effects on the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of women. It can also lead to or add tension to financial stress, especially during the uncertainties we currently face.

“There are many benefits to family planning especially when it comes to financial and overall wellbeing but not many seek the much-need professional consultation,” said Alpro Pharmacy Malaysia pharmacist Jah Hanini. “We encourage women to speak with their pharmacists or physicians to weigh out the available family planning options so that they can choose one that best fits their lifestyle and timing.”

The increase in unplanned pregnancies show a low uptake and awareness of family planning options, which might be influenced by cultural or religious considerations, made worse by the current pandemic.

It can also lead to unwarranted fear of side effects, risks, or other misconceptions, ultimately preventing women from seeking information and medical advice on oral contraception.

“We want to clear the stigma and misconceptions on oral contraceptive risks or side effects, and educate women about the choices available so that they can take charge of their reproductive health,” said Loh Veng Foon, Business Development Manager of BIG Pharmacy. “The platform connects people with BIG Pharmacy for free telepharmacy consultation and it features articles, research studies and open forum dedicated to help with family planning needs. We hope that these initiatives will help clear any concerns.”

At the launch, Malaysian Pharmacists Society (MPS) honorary treasurer Lim Jack Shen, representing president Amrahi Buang, and celebrity Tasha Shilla joined the panel discussion with DOC2US, Alpro Pharmacy and BIG Pharmacy, sharing their thoughts on empowering women to take charge of their health and enhance their quality of life through family planning.

“MPS strongly supports the various initiatives and preventive strategy to educate women in prioritising their health and make informed choices about family planning. Taking on family planning can significantly enhance quality of life in terms of financial and overall wellbeing,” said Lim.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is posing an urgent threat to women’s health and ability to plan their family planning needs by limiting face-to-face medical consultations for seeking professional advice. The timely launch of Malaysia’s first telepharmacy dedicated to family planning is certainly an innovative step towards empowering more pharmacists to play an active role in improving contraception education and counselling. Increasing the accessibility to contraceptives can decrease the unmet family planning needs and destigmatise contraceptive myths and the act of seeking medical consultation,” Lim added.

As a mother, wife and successful career woman, Shilla shared that “planning when to have children with proper consultation has allowed me to stay on track with my career goals and has given my family the flexibility to prepare for next steps at our own pace. There’s a certain sense of freedom when it comes to making informed family planning decisions”.

Bayer’s effort to raise awareness on the benefits of family planning and contraceptive counselling encourages women to make informed choices with the freedom to decide when and how many children to have.

This includes the ‘Ask Maya’ chatbot and the ‘How U Know’ website that will bridge knowledge gaps by providing easier access to reliable information on contraceptive options and reproductive health. 

“Bayer has a long history in women’s health and we have been supporting family planning programmes for more than 50 years with our innovative contraceptive portfolio,” said Angeline Chong, Bayer Business Unit Head, Women’s Healthcare Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

“We are constantly innovating to find new ways to engage everyday women and equip them with accurate information in the selection and effective usage of contraceptives. Today’s launch of a new telepharmacy platform dedicated to family planning takes our commitment to the next level by tapping into the growing digital health industry,” she added.

“Our collaboration with DOC2US, Alpro Pharmacy and BIG Pharmacy aims to empower women to take control of their reproductive health and strive to provide a safe space for their family planning needs.”

The partnership between Bayer and DOC2US is a long-term commitment leveraging telemedicine resources that advocate women’s health and improve awareness of the available family planning methods.

“The platform connects patients with pharmacists and provides seamless access to medical advice or prescription at anytime, anywhere 00 regardless of the changing pandemic restrictions,” Chong concluded. 

For more information on family planning and free telepharmacy consultation, click here.

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