For over 30 years, the Australian Self-Medication Industry has represented companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of non-prescription consumer healthcare products and related firms.
ASMI is the peak industry body for the Australian self-care industry including consumer healthcare products ranging from over-the-counter medicines (OTC) to complementary medicines.
Also represented by ASMI are companies providing manufacturers with services, such as advertising, public relations, regulatory consultancy, legal advice and industry statistics.
Topic for this month:
*Pharmacy attempts to 'switch' customers to house brands threatens customer loyalty and profitability
* ASMI welcomes Health Minister Roxon's message on preventative health
* Parents reassured: No causal effect with paracetamol in new asthma research
Pharmacy attempts to ‘switch’ customers to house brands threatens customer loyalty and profitability
The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products today warned pharmacists that attempts to ‘switch’ customers to private label brands pose a risk to customer loyalty and profitability.
“Where shoppers want to purchase a recognised brand, attempts to switch a customer to a private label brand can be counterproductive for pharmacists,” ASMI Executive Director, Juliet Seifert said.
A recent mystery shopping exercise undertaken by ASMI showed that approximately 13 per cent of pharmacists or pharmacy assistants attempted to switch consumers from a specific recognised branded product to a private label brand.
The study covered seven specified brands across 167 pharmacies in Sydney and Brisbane and was undertaken by Crossmark, a firm that specialises in retail brand health.
Switching occurred more often in Brisbane (15%) than in Sydney (11%).
Banner groups of pharmacists are more likely to engage in switching, with one group attempting to switch almost 70 per cent of shoppers in the survey from their requested brand.
All the evidence suggests that chasing a slightly higher profit margin from private label products can be at the cost of longer term returns from well-known branded products.
Leading community pharmacy business analyst, Bruce Annabel from Johnston Rorke says that the attraction of private brands can be illusory and short-lived.
“The leading products have brand equity and they are sought out by customers who are after a quality product while the private lines cater to those on a budget.
“Certainly there can be a place for private labels but we are seeing some pharmacies where there is a proliferation of private lines at the expense of branded items.
“While this may provide a short term lift in profitability it is like a slow death because it runs down the value of the product and encourages people to buy on price rather than quality.
“The S2 and S3 categories are the most profitable in the retail space and some pharmacies just seem to be taking them for granted. It risks downgrading the value of the OTC market to pharmacists as non-branded products become commoditised,” Mr Annabel said.
Switching customers who specifically request branded products also risks alienating customers, according to one of the country’s most successful pharmacists.
The head of the largest community based pharmacy in Australia, the Cincotta Discount Chemist at Merrylands says he only stocks national brands.
Peter Feros, Managing Director of Pharmacy Works and Director of the Cincotta Discount Chemist Franchise said:
“The national brands grow the market through their advertising.
“Cincotta's strategy is to tap into this growth, through joint advertising, and the national brands are very supportive of this”.
The strategy has helped Cincotta’s Merrylands outlet reach annual sales of more than $30 million.
A recent study conducted for Johnson & Johnson Pacific found that 39 per cent of consumers disliked the practice of pharmacists attempting to switch them to a private label when buying OTC cold and flu products.
The survey found that almost half of all consumers (48 per cent) were unsure about the quality of private label cold and flu products.
Some 31 per cent said they were happy to buy private label when it comes to food, but were not prepared to buy private label medicines.
Twenty five per cent of those surveyed said they were less likely to return to a pharmacy after being subject to attempted switching.
ASMI welcomes Health Minister Roxon’s message
on preventative health
The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products today welcomed Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon’s outline of proposed reforms to address preventative health.
“It is increasingly clear that steps to encourage people to change behaviour as well as moves to better utilise the medical workforce will be paramount in a preventative health framework,” said ASMI Executive Director Juliet Seifert.
The Minister’s comments were contained in the weekend address: “The Light on the Hill: History Repeating” in Bathurst.
Encouraging people to invest in their own health will be important in achieving the type of behavioural change required under a preventative regime.
ASMI has consistently argued that self-care should become an integral part of a comprehensive national health plan for Australia, involving a fundamental shift from curative to preventative medicine. This includes promotion of a healthy lifestyle including good diet and exercise, as well as use of self-medication to treat minor ailments or some chronic conditions.
It is also important that certain prescription-only medicines that have long been proven to be safe and effective are made available to consumers without a prescription.
The Minister’s remarks on the health workforce also underscore the importance of having the optimum structural reforms to deliver improved health outcomes.
There is a strong case for overhauling our highly structured system which sees doctors overstretched as a result of undertaking many tasks which could be devolved to allied health professionals including nurses, psychologists, physiotherapists and dieticians.
Health budgets and medical resources will be stretched to unsustainable levels unless Australians are enabled and encouraged to take greater personal responsibility for good health.
No causal effect with paracetamol in new asthma research
A new study published in The Lancet this week1 which investigates precursors to childhood asthma does not establish a causal link between the use of paracetamol in infancy and asthma arising in later years.
The Australian Self Medication Industry has today moved to reassure parents about the study and to emphasise the positive safety profile of paracetamol.
“Paracetamol has a very long history of safe use in children,” said Dr Deon Schoombie, Scientific Director at ASMI. “The authors themselves say that a causal link between paracetamol and asthma could not be established. They found that there is insufficient evidence to change the advice given to parents and healthcare workers and suggested that more research is needed to develop evidence based guidelines for use of paracetamol.”
Pharmacy academic Professor Peter Carroll, who was previously the Chairperson of the Asthma Card Working Party, says it is important for parents to keep the results of the study in context.
“There is no suggestion that treatment guidelines should change because of this study.”
“I think you might find a correlation between paracetamol use and many things in childhood because its use is just so widespread. It’s very difficult to be definitive about links to conditions like asthma,” said Professor Carroll. “For example, if there is a causative factor it may well be the underlying condition that the paracetamol was used to treat, rather than the paracetamol itself”
Paracetamol has been available for more than 50 years in Australia and the vast majority of children using it as directed experience no undesirable effects. Paracetamol remains an effective and safe option for the treatment of pain and fever in children.
1. Beasley et al. The Lancet. Vol 372. 20/9/08.
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