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- Issue 81: April 2009
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Australian Self Medication Industry Press Releases

Bob Bowden
Media Contact for the Australian Self Medication Industry

Issue 77: November 2008
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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.

Topics for this month:

 * ASMI welcomes measures to increase focus on individual health as part of national primary health care strategy 

Global expert calls for rescheduling of prescription medicines as key element in bold reform of health system

  * Pharmacy attempts to 'switch' customers to house brands threatens customer loyalty and profitability

ASMI welcomes proposal for nicotine replacement therapy to help smokers quit


ASMI welcomes measures to increase focus on individual health as part of national primary health care strategy

The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products today welcomed the Federal Government’s discussion paper on a National Primary Health Care Strategy, notably the enhanced focus on reforms to the health care workforce and measures to enable patients to better self manage their conditions.

The Executive Director of ASMI, Juliet Seifert, said the discussion paper is a positive step in recognizing the fundamental issue that health budgets cannot sustain current levels of activity unless there is far reaching reform to the way we treat and manage primary health.

“There are many minor ailments and chronic conditions that can be self managed or treated by individuals in consultation with allied health professionals.

“The paper recognizes the potential for individuals to have a greater role in decision making about their health, through greater self-care, monitoring and prevention”.

Recent research in the UK found that some 57 million GP consultations per year involved minor ailments and accounted for 20 per cent of total GP consultations at an annual cost to the health system of almost $5 billion.

With GPs in Australia under extreme pressure, there is a real need to examine the effectiveness of the broader health workforce as well as alternatives to costly GP consultations for conditions that can be more effectively managed when diagnosed

Health literacy is an important element in any reform because, as the discussion paper acknowledges, there needs to be greater availability of health information to enable people to manage their own self care.

Ms Seifert said the discussion paper represents a bold step toward bringing overdue reforms to national health.

“These are big issues which need addressing because we have reached the point where the current framework is not sustainable and health outcomes are being compromised.

“The Government should be commended for taking this step toward such a fundamental and necessary reform”.

Ms Seifert said the regulatory environment can also play a part in enhanced preventative health and self care. There is a considerable role for switching medicines from prescription-only to over-the-counter (OTC) status as part of a national health system where people are empowered to take greater responsibility for personal health.

“Switches take pressure off GPs and save consumers time and money. Many chronic conditions and minor ailments can be effectively managed by people having access to appropriate medication over the counter and with help and guidance from their pharmacist.

“The UK market has been at the forefront in switching a number of prescription only medicines with a long record of safe and effective use to OTC status,” Ms Seifert said.

The topic of Self Care and the Australian healthcare system will be the centrepiece of the ASMI national conference in Sydney Wednesday November 19 at Australian Technology Park, Redfern.

The conference will hear speakers from the Federal Government, the healthcare industry, pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists on the future of Self Care and its impact on individuals and health budgets.

Global expert calls for rescheduling of prescription medicines as key element in bold reform of health system

The chance to switch medicines from prescription-only to over-the-counter (OTC) status represents one of the biggest opportunities in consumer healthcare, according to Nicholas Hall, a global OTC expert, and one of the speakers at the upcoming Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) Conference.

“The next generation of prescription-to-OTC switches will underpin profound changes in the healthcare system and will alter the way consumers interact with healthcare professionals, “he said.

“In future we will see switches for chronic, progressive, recurring or symptomless conditions, each with its own challenges.

“Switches can make a major contribution to public health by increasing access to new self care treatments. They affect many people including patients, consumers, doctors, pharmacists, governments and employers to name a few.

“All switches have issues as patients will be diverted from the doctor to the retailer or pharmacist so objections must be identified and answered with data to demonstrate a positive benefit,” he said.

He warns that successful switches entail a major investment of resources by manufacturers and involve the formidable task of creating and building an OTC brand in the retail marketplace.

Nicholas Hall is one of a range of speakers who will examine various aspects of Self Care as part of the Australian health system at the ASMI conference.

His Australian appearance follows a ground-breaking conference in New Jersey in September, “How to Succeed in Rx-to-OTC Switch”. The conference examined regulatory, commercial, consumer and marketing aspects of prescription to OTC switches.

The ASMI conference, Integrating Self Care into the Healthcare System, will be held on Wednesday 19 November at Australian Technology Park Redfern.

Other speakers and panellists include:

Senator Jan McLucas, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health & Ageing
Dr Rohan Hammett, Therapeutic Goods Administration
Kos Sclavos, Pharmacy Guild of Australia
Professor Ron Penny, National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission
Kate Carnell, Australian Food & Grocery Council
Dr Paul Gross, Health Group Strategies
Robyn Williams, Science journalist and broadcaster
Tom Booth, VP International OTC/Consumer Health Care, Schering Plough
Diane Walsh, Consumers Health Forum
Katherine Doric, Nielsen
Fabian Dwyer, IMS Health
Sheila Kelly, Proprietary Association of Great Britain

Topics to be discussed include the evidence for Self Care and its global evolution, future directions in therapeutics regulation, and the development of a Self Care alliance in Australia.

The conference will also see the release of new findings from Nielsen on the global attitudes of consumers to addressing minor ailments.

The future of regulatory arrangements for the Australian pharmaceutical industry will be a major topic with contributions from Senator Jan McLucas, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, and Dr Rohan Hammett, from the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

A panel session will look at the building blocks for Self Care and will include Dr Hammett, Professor Ron Penny, Kos Sclavos, Kate Carnell and Diane Walsh, moderated by ABC science broadcaster, Robyn Williams.

Australia’s best known media doctor, Dr John D’Arcy will be the guest at a gala presentation dinner to recognize excellence in the consumer healthcare industry.

Australian Self-Medication Industry Conference

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Australian Technology Park, Redfern, Sydney

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 proposal for nicotine replacement therapy to help smokers quit

The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products today welcomed suggestions that industry play a greater role in preventative health including the possibility of increasing access to Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) as part of the Government efforts to reduce smoking rates.

The suggestion is contained in the Discussion Paper released today by the National Preventative Health Taskforce.

The Taskforce report raises the idea of subsidising NRT through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or telephone help services such as Quitline. It also discusses the option of making NRT more readily available to Indigenous communities.

NRT is a proven therapy that reduces withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking and has helped thousands of smokers worldwide. It is available in various forms including gum, lozenges, patches for the skin, nasal spray and inhalers.

The Executive Director of ASMI, Juliet Seifert, said this was one way in which industry could play a constructive role in bringing its expertise to address the issue of preventative health.

“It is just one of a number of ways in which the resources and expertise of the industry can be utilized to improve health outcomes.

“Nicotine replacement therapy is an approach that has been scientifically demonstrated to have a significant impact in reducing smoking,” she said.

A recent Cochrane review concluded that NRT almost doubles long term success rates.[1]

“It has been estimated that approximately one third of smokers make at least one attempt to quit in any single year, suggesting that more effort needs to be placed on assisting those people who want to cease smoking.

“It makes sense for effective and proven approaches to smoking cessation to be able to play a front line role in future preventative health campaigns.

“NRT presents a textbook case where a readily available over-the-counter medicine can be incorporated into an integrated public health campaign alongside other treatments and support services”.

Ms Seifert said the Taskforce has taken a fresh approach to tackling some of the most prevalent and costly public health problems, namely tobacco, alcohol and obesity.

“As with smoking, there is room for government and industry to adopt a partnership approach to tackle the issue of overweight and obesity through a combination of improved diet, exercise and appropriate medication where necessary.

“There is no reason why we should not harnesses the best of both worlds to achieve optimum health outcomes and the best return on investment for publicly funded preventative health campaigns,” she said.


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

Media contact: Bob Bowden, Foresight Communications (02) 9241 2811, 0412 753 298

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