Three simple steps to better outcomes for consumers’ health and the economy

24 January 2017

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The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) has issued a trio of recommendations to the Federal Government outlining key mechanisms that will provide consumers with better access to information and medicines to self-manage their health, provide savings for the national healthcare system, and drive innovation, research and growth in the Australian healthcare products industry.

The recommendations form the basis of ASMI's pre-Budget submission, which emphasises the high value of OTC medicines to the Australian health system. Consumer research from Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy (MUCHE)1 estimates that if the eight largest categories of OTC medicines were not available, there would be an estimated58 million additional GP visits. The cost of this would be approximately$3.86 billion per year - $2.5 billion would be borne by Medicare, $1.04 billion by consumers and $360 million by health insurers.  This cost increases toover $10 billion per annum if the indirectcosts of visiting a doctor (e.g. productivity losses) are taken into account.

ASMI's three key recommendations can be summarised as:

  1. Develop a 'switch' agenda and reform the Australian scheduling policy framework.  The down-scheduling ('switch') of medicines from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC) with mandatory consultation with a pharmacist is a key enabler for consumers to better self manage their health. A regulatory environment favourable to switch would encourage innovation in OTC medicines and also provide significant savings to the healthcare system.
     
  2. Reduce restrictions on direct-to-consumer communications for Pharmacist Only (S3) medicines. Schedule 3 (S3) medicines are used to treat a range of everyday conditions (e.g. cold sores, conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers), yet the current default regulatory position disempowers consumers because 'they are not allowed to know' about these medicines. ASMI proposes that these restrictions be revised in the interest of raising consumer awareness of safe and proven therapeutic products that the public already has access to.
     
  3. Introduce data/market exclusivity mechanisms to stimulate research and innovation. Currently, a limiting factor to investment in innovation is that non-prescription medicines (both OTC and complementary) do not benefit from the same level of intellectual property protection as prescription medicines. Mechanisms such as data and market exclusivity provide incentives for companies to invest in research and innovation. Consumers win because this will expand the range of evidence-based non-prescription medicines available for self-care.

ASMI believes that the adoption of these recommendations will contribute to reducing Medicare and PBS costs and increase the sustainability of the Australian healthcare system, while also increasing consumer empowerment for improved health outcomes.

See the full pre-Budget submission here.

References

[1].  Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy: The Value of OTC Medicines in Australia, March 2014.