ASMI Conference looks to the future and a world of opportunity

28 October 2016

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Change and reform were common themes at the ASMI annual conference today, as presenters and participants discussed the state of the industry, regulatory reviews, and the need to adapt to new markets, changing consumer behaviour, and the shift towards self care in health policy.

ASMI Chief Executive Officer Deon Schoombie opened the conference with news of the upcoming release of research on S3 advertising, generated by the University of Technology's Centre for Health Economic Research and Evaluation (CHERE). ASMI will be sharing the report with government and stakeholder over coming weeks, and ASMI Members will have an opportunity to see the S3 advertising research findings at the next members' forum on November 18.

Federal Health Minister, the Hon. Sussan Ley, then addressed delegates on the need for self care to have higher prominence in national health policy. The Minister emphasised the Government's support for a more person-centred approach to health services delivery, focussing on empowerment and health literacy to equip consumers for the prevention and self-management of acute and chronic conditions.

Daniel Bone and Katherine Doric from analytics and business intelligence experts IRI were first in a line-up of thought-provoking presenters who informed and updated everyone on key industry issues. Daniel and Katherine painted a tremendously exciting picture of the sector's current position and future prospects. The industry is experiencing strong growth despite overall retail growth trending down.

Leanne Wells from the Consumer Health Forum stressed the growing importance of health literacy in order to activate consumers to change their lifestyle, better self-manage and make better-informed choices about care and treatment.
"Consumer choices and preferences need to be at the heart of how we design, deliver, fund and regulate in health," she said.
Ms Wells also underlined the importance of packaging and labelling - "the first line of communication with medicine users" - and looked ahead to the "mindblowing" effect of advances in genetic medicine and how it stimulate shifts to evermore personalised medicine.

The Pharmacy Guild's George Tambassis suggested ways the consumer healthcare products sector can better leverage pharmacy to benefit consumers. Mr Tambassis outlined the Pharmacy Guild's submission to the Pharmacy Review, including a Government-funded fee-for-service minor ailments program in community pharmacy that uses a recordable pharmacist-only medicine schedule.
Mr Tambassis discussed key points from the Customer Experience Survey, before describing how the 6CPA, MedsASSIST for real-time tracking of OTC codeine purchases and prescription-to-OTC switch are all set to open up exciting opportunities for the sector.

Next, the TGA's Professor John Skerritt outlined the direction the Government is taking since the release of its response to the Samson Review, and how it will move to implement these changes. Prof. Skerritt highlighted the need for change to Australia's medicine labels, which had not been updated for over 15 years, in order to address poor medicine use and put Australian labels more in line with international practices. He also addressed complementary medicine business reforms, including a single legislative source of information for about 5000 permitted ingredients, updated evidence guidelines and strong international cooperation on complementary medicine ingredient safety.

A key theme to the ASMI conference was how the Australian healthcare industry can capitalise on export opportunities brought about by increased demand from Asia. As Executive Director of International Operations for Austrade, Grame Barty provided his analysis of the risks and opportunities this demand has generated for Australian manufacturers and distributors. While Mr Barty identified the health-related categories that are best positioned for export growth to China, he sounded a note of caution given recent changes in the regulation of cross-border online transactions in China, and stressed the critical importance of an acute understanding of local market conditions in long-range business planning.

Both Mr Barty and Think China's Benjamin Sun focussed on the reasons behind the growing Chinese demand for Australian consumer healthcare products and the online shopping boom driving unprecedented sales growth of the sector's products.

Mr Sun provided an insight into the Chinese consumer behaviour and the Chinese market's perceptions of Australian health products. He explained which Australian products and product categories were preferred by Chinese consumers, and suggested how companies could capitalise on the subsequent export opportunities. With increasing number of Chinese customers turning to online shopping, Mr Sun outlined how this should shape the approach of Australian companies targeting the Chinese market.

Google's Caroline Oates then presented how digital interconnectivity is reshaping our business models. She challenged delegates to ask if their brands were present in the 'moments' that matter to consumers who increasingly turn to devices to act on a health need they have that moment - to learn, to compare, to diagnose, find or buy something. With one in 20 Google searches healthcare related, Ms Oates demonstrated how search and brand engagement are intertwined - 52% of OTC medication consumers will visit a website to learn more about a product. Increasingly in these "I-want-to-know" moments, consumers want to watch, as proven by a 70% increase in searches related to "how-to", and Ms Oates said this is the space brands should be looking at more closely.

In closing the conference, ASMI Chairman Lindsay Forrest noted that while the industry is aligned with almost all of the Government's recommendations following the Sansom Review, ASMI disagrees with the government's decision to retain restrictions on the advertising of S3 medicines and to replace mandatory advertising pre-approvals system with a self-regulatory system.
"We will take every opportunity to further argue the case against removing the current advertising pre-approvals system," he said.

The ASMI conference was hosted by former pharmacist and Australian Comic of the Year Marty Wilson, who was already familiar to many in the healthcare community as a speaker. Marty dispensed equal doses of humour and insight, sneaking in powerful ideas about change and collaboration.

The conference was followed by entertainment and drinks prior to the sold-out Diamond Awards Dinner, which celebrated marketing and sales excellence in the consumer healthcare products industry.

For more information or to arrange a media interview or request photos, please contact:
Dominic Cadden
Communications Manager, Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
M:0408 000044 E: