Self care accepted by consumers, but regulatory obstacles holding it back from playing a more prominent role in national healthcare policy

19 November 2014

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19 November 2014 - Consumers are receptive to the notion of taking more responsibility for their health and well-being and many are practising responsible self care. But there are regulatory obstacles which hamper the expansion of self care as the cornerstone of a national health policy, said experts at an Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) conference yesterday.

ASMI Executive Director Dr Deon Schoombie said: "ASMI's 2014 conference attracted a distinguished array of local and international speakers to share insights on some of the many dimensions of self care - healthcare consumer behaviour, consumer access to medicines, regulatory reform, complementary medicines and healthcare retailing.

"Importantly, it highlighted the next steps we need to take for self care to build momentum in Australia if it is to play a more prominent role in national healthcare policy. This includes setting a regulatory framework that maintains public health and safety but also encourages industry innovation; expansion of the professional role of pharmacists; and transformation of healthcare retailing to take advantage of demographic, technological and social trends, amongst others."

Dr Schoombie spoke about down-scheduling from Prescription Only medicines to over-the-counter medicines (OTC) and said that the Australian regulatory environment is not conducive to encouraging 'switch'. He announced that ASMI is launching an initiative to reshape the scheduling environment and to develop an Australian switch agenda through a multi-stakeholder and cross sector collaboration.

Dr Schoombie also described a draft new model for creating consumer awareness of S3 medicines, which was jointly developed by ASMI, the Pharmacy Guild of Australia and the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA). The model involves three elements: Information about the disease or condition, branded product information, and the key element - emphasising the role of the pharmacist in determining whether the therapy is appropriate for a particular consumer and/or condition.

Nicholas Hall shared the emerging trends in global self care markets, drawing on insights from research and international best practice and providing a backdrop for the day's discussions. He said: "There is a continued trend to prevention and a focus on lifestyle conditions. There is also a renewed focus on the consumer and a new point-of-care role for pharmacists, focused on health maintenance and lifestyle OTCs."

Professor Scott Koslow from Macquarie University's Centre for the Health Economy, discussed Australian consumer behaviour in relation to self care and its current and potential future value to the economy. "One in nine consumers use a non-prescription medicine regularly," he explained "and the majority of consumers want down-scheduling from Prescription Only to over-the-counter for certain medicines, but several medicines available as OTC in comparable markets overseas still require a prescription in Australia. This means Australian consumers are missing out."

On the regulatory front, Bill Turner, Head, Office of Scientific Evaluation at the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), provided an update on the latest state of play on the regulatory front for self care and regulatory reforms that impact the industry. He also foreshadowed the potential impacts of the Federal Government's de-regulatory agenda on the non-prescription medicines industry.

Steve Mister, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Responsible Nutrition, shared the latest trends in the complementary medicines market in North America, providing insights on what the near future holds for complementary medicines.

He presented the results of a Frost and Sullivan study in the US which revealed that targeted use of complementary medicines in high risk populations can potentially reduce healthcare costs. Mr Mister pointed to a similar study in Australia, which demonstrated that certain complementary medicines can lead to reduced individual and societal healthcare costs and productivity gains when taken at a preventive dose by high risk target populations.

Gopa Mitra, MBE, a Board member of the UK Self Care Forum, shared insights into the way the UK is embracing self care and some of the key lessons she learnt along the way from her involvement on the Board of the Self Care Forum.
"Self care had its origins in an unsustainable UK health system, fuelled by ballooning demand for a range of healthcare services, an ageing population, and a rising incidence of chronic disease," explained Ms Mitra. "Australia's health system faces similar challenges. The essence of self care lies in empowering individuals to become more knowledgeable and confident about their health at every stage of their life."

Dr Alison Roberts from the PSA, presented the results of the PSA's Health Destination Pilot study and the latest trends in community pharmacy in Australia.
She argued that "Pharmacies need to reposition themselves as health destinations if they are to survive healthcare system reforms. New business models are needed for pharmacy that are consumer-centric and based on health solutions. The new models need to be built from the ground up rather than just tinkering around the edges."

Steve Sowerby followed up with case studies of best practice healthcare retailing around the world. He pointed to the drive to personalisation and what this means for healthcare retailing, in particular, the role of big data in personalised care and promotion; expanding the role of the Pharmacist and increasing the importance of personal advisers.

In the closing session, the ABC's Virginia Trioli moderated a vigorous panel discussion with several industry leaders that shed light on some of the key issues facing the sector and priorities for the future. The panellists included Grant Kardachi from the PSA, Professor Scott Koslow, Bill Turner, Chris Flood from the Guild and Dr Deon Schoombie.
-ENDS-

For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Marie Kelly-Davies
PR Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
M:0408 256 381 E: marie@asmi.com.au