ASMI welcomes community pharmacy support for S3 information-based advertising

19 November 2013

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19 November 2013 - The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) is encouraged by strong signals of support from community pharmacy to expand the range of Pharmacist Only (S3) medicines as well as its widespread support of an information-based communications approach to consumers for S3 medicines, as demonstrated by the UTS Pharmacy Barometer released this week.1
Prescription to non-prescription reclassification ('Rx to OTC switch') and lifting the current advertising restrictions on S3 communication are key issues that remain high on ASMI's agenda.

According to ASMI Executive Director Dr Schoombie, the inability of companies to create consumer awareness of S3 medicines is the main reason why the full potential of these medicines as a legitimate treatment option has not been realised in Australia.
Speaking at the ASMI Conference last week, Dr Schoombie said: "It is difficult to a mount a public health benefit argument to support these restrictions, especially given the supply of these medicines require the mandatory intervention by a pharmacist.

"The restrictions have a perverse consequence; consumers who do not know about these medicines continue to go to their GPs for conditions that could have been effectively and safely treated by pharmacists."

ASMI has been working with a number of stakeholders, including pharmacy and consumer groups, on an alternative consumer communications model which will permit branded communication of certain S3 products. It is now exploring options for reform with Federal, State and Territory health authorities.

Under the proposed model, the emphasis will be on creating consumer awareness about the condition and/or symptoms for which the particular S3 product is indicated, and highlighting the importance of the role of the pharmacist in determining whether the product is appropriate for that consumer.

ASMI recently included the proposed S3 Communications model as part of its response to the consultation on the review of the scheduling framework as well as the recent consultation into advertising of therapeutic goods.

"In ASMI's view, increasing the number of S3 products will have a myriad of benefits across the community such as health funding savings, reduced pressure on doctors, more timely access to medicines for consumers and an increased ability for consumers to self-care for minor ailments.

"For pharmacists, an increase in products down-scheduled to S3 from prescription status will provide them with more effective tools to treat their customers and, as highlighted by Warwick Plunkett, an opportunity to build new, diversified business models.
"But for this level of change to happen, companies need to be incentivised to invest in down-scheduling products to S3."

Dr Schoombie explained that innovator companies are presently disadvantaged by the OTC down-scheduling process, due to the lack of data protection for "switch" applications. The significant costs associated with switching products from prescription to OTC status, along with the current advertising restrictions and lack of any market exclusivity, means that it remains an unviable commercial exercise for innovator companies.
ASMI is advocating for a period of data protection, commensurate with the degree of innovation and investment, to encourage investment in Rx to OTC switches.
Speaking at the ASMI Conference last week, international 'switch' expert Natalie Gauld also argued for some form of exclusivity for companies who successfully push for a product to move to S3, as seen in markets such as Japan and the US.

Gauld also highlighted that Australia was lagging behind New Zealand and the UK, in particular, in increasing consumer access to medicines without a prescription.
According to Gauld, flexibility from the regulator and committee considering rescheduling, engaged pharmacists, allowance for responsible advertising, and a supportive GP sector are key factors that will enable more successful S3 switches in Australia.
ASMI continues to engage with government to lobby for a more suitable Rx to OTC switch process and to gain broader support for ASMI's proposed model for an alternative consumer communications model for S3s.
-ENDS-

About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy. www.asmi.com.au

References:
1. UTS Pharmacy Barometer: Future Challenges for Community Pharmacy. September 2013.
For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Michelle Sollitt-Davis
PR Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
M:0422 084 951 E: michelle@asmi.com.au