A case study on pharmacist Arshie Larga, his easy-to-understand medical explainers, his extreme relatability, and just what else makes him tick among millions of young Filipino audiences.
Back in 2020 when everyone was cooped up at home, I spent a lot of time online. (I still do three years later, just that most of the stimulation I received in my waking hours was from social media.) The novel coronavirus everyone was still in the dark about, people getting sick and dying in droves, government incompetence, and everything else in the news—all of it brought me constant anxiety without having to leave the house.
I found comfort in a few things those days, and health professionals who knew just what they were talking about were one of them. In the early pandemic days of mass hysteria and never-ending confusion, I chanced upon an unimposing guy on my feed who brings clarity to thousands of viewers once he starts the video with the words: “Let me explain.”
Meet the Philippines’ most TikTok-famous pharmacist
Ramon Christian “Arshie” Larga is a licensed Filipino pharmacist who’s famous on TikTok and Twitter. He’s best known for his short explainers on his bread and butter, medicine. While most of them are one-minute videos shot from his workplace (their small, family-owned pharmacy), he’s managed to capture the trust and attention of millions of Filipinos because of his clear and easy-to-understand manner of discussing—not to mention rattling off the long, complex names of—various pharmaceutical products.
His secret? Much like how our favorite teacher from high school makes learning new topics fun, Arshie takes his vast expertise as a pharmacist, from prescription drugs to over-the-counter cures, and shares it in a way that doesn’t make viewers feel dumb. His use of a simple mix of English and Filipino; captions, visual aids, and sound effects to highlight key information; and of course, properly cited sources make his videos highly engaging and credible. I don’t even mind when he does it for branded content (see also: get that bread).
He’s also done his fair share of debunking disinformation or misconceptions on various health topics. In this video, he explains how COVID-19 vaccines are given at safe doses and encourages everyone to get vaccinated. In another video, he vouches for the effectiveness of generic drugs, which are often cheaper than their branded counterparts.
His consistent content has gained him over 3.5 million TikTok followers and 202.4 thousand Twitter followers since 2018. Last year, his content was recognized and reposted by the Department of Health. He even won two awards: Popular Creator of the Year at the TikTok PH Awards 2022 and Best Regional Influencer during the Thailand Influence Awards 2022.
But his growing platform doesn’t stop him from interacting with his audiences. He often takes time to reply to their comments. He even answers their inquiries through another video (it’s instant content!), without being above viral dance crazes or sounds to more effectively get his message across.
When he’s not schooling audiences on the difference between expectorants and antitussives, he shares his work routine through “Work-Toks” which feature his informative to amusing experiences and public interactions as a pharmacist.
The Internet’s “next Health secretary”
Arshie has definitely come a long way from being a community pharmacist at his hometown in Marinduque. Despite his achievements and impressive follower count, he doesn’t forget to give back and stay relatable. At a time the country’s own health agency was under fire for a string of issues over the pandemic, this has even earned him the nickname “our next Department of Health secretary”—not just as a mere joke, but perhaps as a bigger reflection of what people look for in their public officials.
For one, Arshie does not fall short of acknowledging the scope and limitations of his expertise. He is also aware of the responsibilities that come with his platform.
“As a pharmacist by profession and as a content creator, one of my objectives is to fight disinformation and misinformation on social media,” he said in a previous interview with Village Pipol.
“We are knowledgeable and equipped with the proper skills to impart accurate information and tackle different health-related issues. As a creator, I took it as a responsibility to implore the public in making informed decisions,” he added.
M2.0 Communications is a digital marketing agency and public relations firm in the Philippines that helps brands tell meaningful stories. We offer social media management, influencer marketing, video production, and content development services to help our clients with their PR and marketing needs.