October 30, 2019, by Lisa Chin

Visit for Research Collaboration Opportunity

This post is contributed by Dr Lee Mei Kee, Assistant Professor at the School of Pharmacy.

The management of pharmaceutical waste has been a major concern globally due to its potential high risk of harm to the human health and environment. In response to the Newton Ungku Omar Fund Grand Challenge 2019, our team submitted a project proposal that aims to improve the management of pharmaceutical waste in Malaysia. To our great joy we are one of the lucky recipients of the funding provided by UNM Graduate School to conduct preliminary work for our project. With the funding, we were afforded the opportunity to conduct a visit to our collaborator, Lovy Pharmacy which is located in Butterworth.

Lovy Pharmacy is a chain of retail pharmacy connected and located next to BP Diagnostic Centres. In October 2018, Lovy Pharmacy successfully launched the Sharp/Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Campaign in Penang with the support from Penang State Health Department. Through this campaign, consumers are encouraged to return their used needles, syringes and expired medicine to the participating pharmacies. Thirty community pharmacies had participated in the pilot project, now extended to all in Penang. Our trip to Lovy Pharmacy was therefore to better understand how they run the waste collection programme in Penang. On top of that, we wanted to perform a review of consumer perception and awareness towards safe disposal of sharps and medicine.

Poster of the Sharp Disposal Campaign run by Lovy Pharmacy

On 17 September 2019, Bee Yean and I boarded an early morning flight to Penang. The moment we stepped out of the airport, we knew that we were not spared from the haze – the haze situation in Penang was no better than Semenyih. However, the warm welcome from the Pharmacist-in-charge, Ms Foon, made up for the bad weather. Ms Foon, who is also the coordinator for Sharp/Pharmaceutical Waste Disposal Campaign, showed us around the pharmacy and BP healthcare lab, which is located next door. Through our conversation with Ms Foon, we learnt more about the operating procedure and progress of the campaign, and we were definitely impressed by their commitment and initiative of moving towards Green Pharmacy, which is highly commended. More importantly, we also saw the potential collaboration opportunities between community pharmacy and research institution.

The picture of Lovy Pharmacy where we spent a day with Ms Foon

From left: Home Sharps Container which is distributed to the consumers for free; container for needle and syringe placed in community pharmacy; and large wheel bin for pharmaceutical waste.

After a hearty lunch with Ms Foon (who kindly treated us Penang delicacy i.e. “Loh Bak” aka Five-Spiced Meat Roll), we conducted face-to-face interviews with a few campaign participants. The information collected was encouraging, which contributed to our subsequent research planning and proposal write-up. At the end of the day, we caught the evening flight back to KL, waving goodbye to Ms Foon, Lovy Pharmacy and Penang with a heavy heart.

It was a short but insightful visit, which would not have been possible without the support from UNM Graduate School. We would also like to extend our sincere thanks to Ms Foon and Lovy Pharmacy for their gracious hospitality. Last but not the least, thank you to our team leader, Prof Ting Kang Nee, and team members, Dr Anita Chakrabarty, Dr Kasturi Muthoosamy, Dr Avvari Visveswara Mohan, Dr Show Pau Loke, Dr Low Bee Yean and myself!

Featured image: Group photo of some of the team members in Newton Ungku Omar Fund Grand Challenge Workshop (From left: Dr Lee Mei Kee (myself), Dr Kasturi Muthoosamy, Dr Avvari Visveswara Mohan, Prof Ting Kang Nee and Dr Anita Chakrabarty). Dr Low Bee Yean and Dr Show Pau Loke got left out but we should have a complete group photo in no time.

Posted in News and EventsPostgraduate lifeResearcher Development