Mercury Drug Research

Topics: Pharmacology, Philippines, Pharmacy Pages: 15 (5008 words) Published: September 18, 2013
Mercury Drug Corporation is the Philippines' dominant pharmacy group. The Quezon City-based company operates a national chain of more than 450 drugstores, including company-owned and franchised stores. Mercury Drug is estimated to sell as much as 60 percent of all medicines sold each year in the Philippines (the country's hospitals sell about 12 percent of medicines). Mercury Drug's pharmacies follow the American model, combining drug and medical equipment sales with over-the-counter medicines, personal care items, basic household needs, cosmetics and other beauty products, and the like. Most of the company's stores also are equipped to store and sell serums, blood plasma, albumin, and similar biologically active medical products. In addition to its drugstores, Mercury operates a chain of Mercury Drug Superstores. Generally attached to the company's pharmacies, the Mercury Drug Superstores extend the group's assortment to include convenience store and fast-food items. By the mid-2000s, Mercury Drug Corporation operated more than 150 Mercury Drug Superstores. Founded by Mariano Que, who first sold pills from a pushcart in the 1940s, Mercury Drug Corporation remains a privately held company. Leadership of the company also remains in the family: The company's president is Mariano Que's daughter, Vivian Que-Ascona. Mercury Drug is a subsidiary of the Mercury Group of Companies, which governs other Que family interests, including the 10*Q convenience store chain and the Tropical Hut fast-food group. In 2003, Mercury Drug's revenues amounted to nearly PHP 43 billion ($8.8 billion). Founding a Filipino Pharmacy Giant in the 1940s

Mariano Que started his career working in a Manila drugstore in prewar Philippines. There he came into contact with many medications, including the newly discovered class of sulfa drugs, including sulfathiazole. These new drugs, developed by German scientists in the early 1930s, were quickly hailed as new "miracle" drugs. Indeed, the sulfa drugs enabled the treatment of many illnesses, such as pneumonia, gonorrhea, and other bacterial infections, that previously had been difficult, if impossible, to treat. Despite the fact that the sulfa drugs later were shown to have a number of undesirable side effects (they formed deposits in the kidneys, and bacteria quickly became resistant), they were credited with saving millions of lives around the world through World War II. The end of the war and the liberation of the Philippines by U.S. forces brought new business opportunities in the country. During the occupation, supplies of medicines had become scarce, and the immediate postwar period saw a surge in demand for sulfa drugs, and sulfathiazole, considered by many to be a virtual cure-all. With most of the country's businesses, including its pharmacies, destroyed during the war, much of the country's trade shifted to its busy marketplaces. Mariano Que, inspired by the new entrepreneurial spirit, used his drugstore experience to launch his own business. At first, Que bought and sold medical vials and capsules. After he had generated sufficient savings, however, he took PHP 100 (worth about $1.50 at the time) and bought a bottle of sulfathiazole tablets. Que brought the sulfathiazole bottle to Manila's busy Banbang market and sold the pills—in single doses. The method of selling, known as "Tingi-tingi," became extremely popular in the poverty-stricken Philippines, bringing life-saving medications within financial reach of many more people than before. Que invested his profits in purchasing more pills, and before long he had generated enough revenue to buy a pushcart, which he filled with an expanding assortment of pharmaceuticals. The unregulated nature of the country's drug market, especially its pharmaceutical black market, led to abuses by sellers, who sometimes peddled fake or dangerous formulations, or sold medications long out of date, often at extortionist prices.

Que, however, built a reputation for...

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