With Covid-19 now back on our shores, the staff at antidote health stores have been working harder than ever to support and strengthen the health and well-being of their local community.

antidote’s dedication to good health has been evidenced by their early involvement in the Covid-19 vaccination rollout, balanced alongside their ongoing commitment to deliver a strong, holistic health model. 

As a qualified pharmacist and co-founder of eight antidote stores throughout Otago, Chin Loh’s personal ideology for excellent health centres on preventative, rather than reactive care. He explained that a cornerstone feature of antidote’s model was to get to know their customers’ health journey from the moment they walked through the door, and to support them through every stage thereafter.

“We want to foster an environment where people can access authentic advice, connect with trustworthy staff and purchase quality products,” he explained.

“We want antidote to be a destination for good health.” 

He noted that the traditional healthcare model saw pharmacy as the ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’, where medication and advice were dispensed in a reactionary capacity. But he believed there was much more scope for pharmacists to push beyond the mechanical function of ‘just counting pills’.

“As a company, antidote consciously took the word ‘pharmacy’ out of our branding, because we believe we are more than that,” he explained. 

“Our capabilities go beyond what traditional pharmacy is seen to do, which is dish out pills,” he said.

Chin said he had witnessed a huge evolution in the approach to health and well-being since he started out in pharmacy. He likened the antidote ethic to that of the holistic “Te Whare Tapa Whā” Māori health model. 

“We want to support our customer’s on their health journey, and help them understand the important balance between the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of wellbeing,” he explained. He said his antidote team preferred to have conversations with their customers, discover the root cause of their problems, and tailor a solution to suit. 

“When people come in with a script, we don’t want this to be the end-stage of their health journey with us - we want this to be the start,” he said. 

"antidote goes beyond just the pill - it’s so much more than that - we have a particularly strong focus on encouraging positive lifestyle choices."

Chin is also a powerful advocate for quality nutrition, and believes great health starts with a wholesome diet. To demonstrate this, antidote has introduced café areas into three of their Dunedin stores. 

“The genesis of good health starts with eating well,” Chin stated. “Here at antidote, we want to foster an environment where people can connect over nutritious food and drinks, as well as be comfortable in a space where they can hang out and chat.”  

He acknowledged it was difficult to change the traditional perception of what a pharmacy typically offers, and agreed not many people would choose to go to their local chemist unless they had to.

“But we are working hard to change that - we want our stores to be desirable locations, with lots on offer, rather than just a place to collect a script.” 

As several antidote stores also offer beauty therapy services, Chin added this was another great reason for Dunedin-ites to come in-store. His ambition was for antidote to become the go-to health and wellness provider throughout the Otago region.

"antidote is where you go to access a range of self-care options: have coffee with friends, get your brows done, grab some beauty or health products -- we’re your one-stop, wellbeing shop.”

Chin was also proud to state that all antidote stores stocked the “Essential 50” health products - the most preferred health products on the market. And even though these items were priced competitively against other big-pharmacy chains, Chin noted antitdote’s product line was not solely influenced by a ‘best-price’ model. 

“Many of the bigger discount pharmacies have a 'cheapest price in town’ model - they set their shop up to lure people in with bargain deals and free giveaways,” he explained.

"But that’s not how we work,” he added. “Although we price our stock competitively, our shop floors are not set up to focus on the most discounted products for that week."

Chin emphasised that antidote staked their reputation on stocking high-quality supplements, vitamins, beauty and health-products, and in particular, those which were trusted to work.

“Price is just one of the many elements we consider when recommending a product,” he said.

“We listen to our customers and get to know them at the start of their journey - we curate a personal ‘health-plan’ and only offer products which are best suited to their needs.”

Beyond his day job, Chin frequently campaigned to the wider pharmaceutical community and hoped other pharmacies introduced a more holistic approach. He felt it was time for an industry shake-up to adjust the current pharmacy model, which gave zero recognition to pharmacists beyond the dispensing of pills.

“To be fair to all pharmacists, we all care and we all want to do the best for our customers,” he said.

“But it’s crazy how funding is only based on the mechanical side of counting pills and putting labels on, all of which should be automated. We want to change that!”

Chin encouraged individuals to take proactive steps while they were healthy, and before they found themselves ill. He believed this was where antidote’s offering was most valuable.

antidote goes beyond the price and the pill - that’s what we do best,’” he declared.

“We provide trustworthy and authentic advice to our customers - our goal is for antidote to become the go-to destination for anyone wanting to take charge of their long term health and wellbeing.”

Chin invited locals to get in touch to book an appointment for their covid-19 or flu vaccine, or otherwise come in-store and start the conversation towards building stronger, sustainable health.

antidote has 8 stores (internal link to locations) within the Otago region, offering cafe, beauty and dispensary services, as well as a wide range of high-quality vitamins, supplements and beauty care products. 

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