Editor's Note: The recent conference "Market Dynamics of Self-Care" held by the Australian Self-Medication Industry highlighted some of the dilemmas faced by community pharmacy in a market that has traditionally been a primary focus, and a market that is potentially being torn in two different directions.
One direction has the major retailers dominating this market, another has manufacturers supporting the concept of clinical areas in pharmacies as a means of retaining and expanding the market through pharmacies.
A call has been made to involve a range of stakeholders in a new alliance.
A leading health economist called on pharmacists to consider the merits of a new self-care industry alliance that would drive a new approach to consumer healthcare and help to ease the burden on government health budgets.
Dr Paul Gross, Director of Health Group Strategies told the Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) conference in Sydney last week that a new self-care alliance should include key stakeholders such as government, GP's, pharmacists, patient support groups and industry.
The ASMI Conference, Market Dynamics of Self-Care, heard speakers from the Commonwealth Government, the healthcare industry, pharmaceutical companies and pharmacists on the future of self-care and its impact on individuals and health care professionals
Another speaker, Nicholas Hall, an international expert on the OTC industry and consultant to some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies, outlined a vision for the future of the OTC market, driven by powerful global retail chains.
Dr Gross said recent developments in the UK and France highlighted the potential for self-care to become an integral part of the Australian health system and to drive healthcare reform and greater transparency.
“The French government is considering an expert report that encourages more transparency in access to cheaper, safe OTC medicines, and the UK government has just published a ringing endorsement of the impact of self-care,” he said.
“These reforms have the capacity to empower the patient while also reducing hospital admissions and unnecessary GP visits. With current GP and nurse shortages, this step is now urgent here”, he said.
As an example of the potential of self-care, he pointed to the latest European and Australian research on the impact of calcium and Vitamin D supplements in reducing the prevalence of bone disorders in women.
Paul Goss delivers his message at the ASMI Conference
The proposed self-care alliance would review the policy changes in the UK with a view to helping promote and educate Australians about the opportunities for self-management of major chronic conditions.
The call was supported by the Executive Director of ASMI, Juliet Seifert who said it had the capacity to change individual behaviour and achieve a sustainable health budget while targeting the highest priority health areas.
John Sayers, General Manager of GlaxoSmithKline said the OTC market had moved backwards in the last three years, with regulatory decisions resulting in fewer switches and a less dynamic industry.
Nicholas Hall predicted big changes in the role of pharmacy and the way OTC medicines are marketed.
He said that despite considerable takeover activity by the multinationals, real growth in the OTC market was negligible.
The fastest growing OTC companies were those in the developing markets of Asia, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe.
“There are no multinationals in the fastest growing OTC companies,” he said.
“In many instances the multinationals don’t seem to be as good at spotting the new opportunities as their entrepreneurial counterparts.
“Multinationals are driven by R&D and switch, and we have had few successful switches in the last 10 years.
Nicholas Hall provides statistical insights
“It seems that the secret of growth in the OTC market is differentiation, whether it’s a product category, a country or even a positioning.
He also predicted a shift in the power balance that will see global retail chains emerge as the key drivers of the OTC market, necessitating a rethink of the traditional pharmacy business model.
“Within 10 years, we estimate that 50% of all OTC sales will be non-pharmacy.
“Already the top ten retailers have 16% of the OTC market, with the US being a big part of that. It will be 40% in 10 years time, and 100 retailers will have a 75% global market share.
“There needs to be a new role for pharmacies if they are to survive”
He said OTC companies had to ride the new distribution wave.
One direction was the mass market; the other was helping the pharmacist to defend their business by becoming health centres.
His vision is for a new role for pharmacies as a Point of Care, responsible for health maintenance and taking on a number of doctor roles including diagnostic tests and advice, and as gatekeepers for advisory OTC's.
In-store clinics are a fast growing trend in the UK, with 95% of pharmacists offering a closed area for professional advice, he said.
“I think all our marketing strategies are designed for a consumer who died 20 years ago. I think the new consumer is way ahead of us.
The consumer is much more complex, fragmented and demanding than we give then credit for,” Hall said.