RiteMED was formed in 2002 by United Laboratories Inc. (Unilab) in response to the government’s efforts to promote generics as an affordable option for Filipino patients. The objective was to offer a portfolio of unibranded (i.e., single brand) generic medicines with the same quality as the product-branded ones in order to generate trust among doctors and other healthcare professionals.
RiteMED has since become the leading unibranded generic company in the country. It enabled the United Health Group, of which RiteMED is a member company, to launch generic counterparts of various molecules at lower prices due to the lower cost of promoting only one company brand, instead of multiple product brands. RiteMED’s tag line “Right Medicine, Priced Right” encapsulates what it wants to achieve.
With the initial support of doctors and other healthcare professionals, RiteMED rapidly expanded its product offerings from 2002 to 2010. Aside from the original antibiotics, vitamins and pain relievers, RiteMED started to make available a few cardiovascular, respiratory, and anti-allergy products. It focused its marketing efforts on generating trust among medical doctors to encourage them to prescribe RiteMED, especially to patients who could barely afford the more expensive product-branded medicines.
In September 2009, however, RiteMED faced a serious business reversal when the government imposed the Maximum Drug Retail Price and asked other companies to reduce their prices voluntarily under the Government-Mediated Access Price (GMAP) program. These twin moves resulted in a price squeeze as pharmaceutical companies reduced their prices because of, or in response to, MDRP and GMAP. In 2010, the first full year of the reduced drug prices, RiteMED suffered a huge financial loss and had to transfer most of its medical representatives to other Unilab marketing divisions to prevent them from being retrenched.
In the following year, with a total workforce of only thirty-four (34) employees and with no money to support a marketing field force, RiteMED had to revise its business model. It transformed itself from a conventional pharma company that covers doctors to secure prescriptions into an advocacy brand that speaks directly to patients and actively helps them assert their right to affordable and quality healthcare products and services. RiteMED launched the “Bawal ang Mahal” campaign and engaged the services of Ms. Susan Roces as brand ambassador to deliver one key message -- quality medicines need not be expensive. It sought to subvert the dominant paradigm of “Bawal Magkasakit . . . dahil mahal magkasakit”.
The “Bawal ang Mahal” was successful, especially coming after the Department of Health explained to the public that many of the medicine brands familiar to them and which they have been using for years are in fact brands of generic medicines. While they are medicines products with brands, they are nevertheless generic because they are not being marketed by companies that developed them. The campaign was also instrumental in developing the confidence of drugstore chains to carry RiteMED products despite not having the prescription support that conventional pharmaceutical companies have.
With Ms. Susan Roces as its brand ambassador, the original campaign was followed by a series of marketing campaigns (“May Karapatan Kang Gumaling”, “Gusto Naming Gumaling Kayo”, and “Dasal Naming Gumaling Kayo”), all emphasizing the right of every Filipinos to have access to quality essential medicines.
In 2015, RiteMED’s market research showed that most of its early converts came from the wealthier socio-economic classes (SEC) A,B &C, who were not the company’s target population. This was partly traced to the hesitance of poorer sectors to ask for more affordable brands from drugstore clerks because either they felt intimidated or did not know which brands to trust. This caused RiteMED to change the tone of its advertisements to make them more approachable to the lower end of the economic spectrum. It launched the “Huwag Mahihiyang Magtanong”, with an easy to remember jingle that Ms. Susan Roces gamely sang and danced to. It became viral and the rest, they say, is history.
Since 2015, RiteMED continues to remind Filipinos that they have the right to affordable and high quality medicines and that they should have the courage to ask for them. RiteMED followed the successful “Huwag Mahiyang Magtanong” campaign with similar ones in tone and content - “Tiwala”, “Di Dapat Mahal ang Magmahal”, and “Pag may check, that’s the right one!”.
On its 20th year, RiteMED renews its commitment to provide Filipino patients with affordable and high quality medicines and to be their partner in enabling them to exercise their constitutional right to affordable healthcare products and services. It continues to increase its product portfolio so Filipino patients can have access to RiteMED medicines regardless of their disease. In partnership with drugstores, doctors, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals, RiteMED promises to be by their side with right medicines that are priced right.