AMA misunderstands OTC Value Study

27 March 2014

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27 March 2014 - Dr Deon Schoombie, Executive Director of the Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI), today argued that the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has misunderstood the findings of a study into the benefits that could arise from improving consumer access to a number of current prescription only medicines.1
Comments from AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, suggest the AMA has not properly understood the study's key finding that 'switching' certain prescription only medicines to Pharmacist Only could save the health economy $2.1 billion.

We are not suggesting for a moment that GPs should somehow be cut out of the consultation process. GPs are at the centre of Self Care and are a critical partner in assisting consumers to understand and manage their conditions.

But there are clearly a number of prescription only medicines that have been down-scheduled in similar markets to Australia and which could be safely done so here.
Based on the Macquarie University study regarding 11 common prescription only medicines, switching could save approximately $1 billion in avoided GP visits and approximately the same amount in productivity.

The primary aim of the study was to demonstrate the potential economic impact of increasing access to medicines and to raise the question why down-scheduling has all but stalled in Australia.

Down-scheduling is not new. Substances like lower dose NSAIDs, H2 antagonists, proton-pump inhibitors, nicotine replacement therapy, antihistamines, orlistat, and corticosteroid inhalers were all once prescription only medicines. We don't have to think too far back when smoking cessation medications such as Nicorette and Nicabate, non-sedating antihistamines such as Claratyne, Telfast and Zyrtec and anti-diarrhoeal drugs such as Imodium were prescription only.

Consumers have been using these medicines safely, often under the guidance of GPs and pharmacists.

We strongly believe that GPs should be part of this debate. They are the medical experts and the key player in raising health literacy. The foundations of responsible Self Care are laid in the doctor's consulting rooms. But we can't afford to stop the clock on sensible, incremental reform that is in keeping with National Medicines Policy.

About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak body representing sponsors of non-prescription medicines - over-the-counter (OTC) and complementary medicines. Its members make up 85 per cent of the $4bn self care market. Membership totals 60 companies and ASMI members employ approximately 17,000 people with exports estimated at $600 million annually. 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.

1. Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy. The value of OTC medicines in Australia. March 2014.
For more information or to arrange a media interview, please contact:
Marie Kelly-Davies
PR Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
P: 9923 9410
M:0408 256 381 E: