Malaysia’s influencers are causing people to hoard medicines believed to treat Covid-19, creating shortages

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PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – Information sharing on medicine by social media influencers is unwittingly leading Malaysians to hoard medications, and worsening the medicine shortage, pharmacists say.

A pharmacist in Hulu Kelang who wishes to remain anonymous said viral videos on social media had caused an increase in demand for certain brands of paracetamol.

“Before this, some brands were selling slow, but when influencers promoted certain brands on TikTok, it was sold out,” she said.

All Day Pharmacy’s Leow Fui Woon shared the same concern, adding that some buyers would insist on buying a particular brand as promoted by these influencers.

“Some customers blindly follow and ask for a certain type of medicine that these influencers claim can treat Covid-19.

“They buy just to keep, some even panic buy. When asked for whom the medicines are for and how young the patient is, they said they’re only buying to stock up,” she said, adding that the market has enough supplies of cough syrup, as long as customers don’t insist on a particular brand.

The buyers, Leow added, also refused to listen to pharmacists’ explanations and insisted on following the influencers’ recommendations.

“The power of influencers is unimaginable … Sometimes it is hard for us to even explain to buyers about the medications because they only listen to the influencers.

“Medicine can only help to ease the symptoms, so customers shouldn’t have the wrong mindset, be rational and understand the uses of the medicine instead of following the influencers’ recommendations blindly,” she said.

She added that medicine for flu-like symptoms, especially of certain brands such as Difflam and Panadol, have been on low supply since January.

Leow said that recent increase in cases of Covid-19, HFMD and influenza has also caused demand for medicine to increase, adding that supplies are slowly coming back.

“Supplies are slowly improving in many pharmacies nationwide, but the amount is still not as many as before.

“If Covid-19 lingers, it is possible for the shortage to last longer, especially if there are no policies or measures to ease the shortage, and improve the availability of raw materials and logistics,” she said.

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