ASMI conference looks to the future for world class reform

14 November 2012

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Initiatives to deliver Australia a world class regulatory system for medicines, and the future of healthcare retailing were the key features at the Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) 2012 Annual Conference in Sydney.

The conference, "Future Proofing the Consumer Healthcare Industry", heard from a range of local and international speakers from the consumer healthcare industry, government, the healthcare professions and academia.

Dr John Skerritt, National Manager, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) told the conference that among the agency's key priorities for the coming year were regulatory reform, stakeholder engagement, the establishment of the joint regulatory agency with New Zealand, and integration with wider health policy.

He also outlined elements of the TGA's blueprint for reform of OTC medicines which will see a more efficient and cost-effective evaluation process, greater transparency and predictability, the application of a benefit/risk model, and more resources to reduce application backlogs.

"TGA recognises the importance of the OTC medicines industry and the central role of 'informed' self medication in managing demands on the healthcare system. TGA commits to improved communication with industry and consumers, including consulting on proposed reforms," Dr Skerritt said.

The conference heard about the need for Australia to develop a "world class regulatory system" - essentially leveraging elements from around the world to enhance the local regulatory model.

Examples of best practice were cited by David Skinner, President, Consumer Health Products, Canada, and Dr Stewart Jessamine, Group Manager with Medsafe, the New Zealand regulator.

Dr Geoffrey Annison, Deputy Chief Executive, Australian Food and Grocery Council told the audience there was a blurred line between some foods and therapeutic products, particularly complementary medicines, and that levels of evidence should be consistent across the board.

The case for a faster uptake of self care was presented by Dr Simon Fradd, a UK-based GP and board member of the Self Care Forum. Dr Fradd said that the self care model provided improved access to health services, better quality of life, better health outcomes, greater healthcare capacity and value for money.

Dr Fradd said regulators and healthcare professions should be looking to promote the notion of health self reliance, not dependence, and that health budgets meant that we could no longer afford to ignore self care.

The conference also examined the changing face of healthcare retailing, including the way that consumer behaviour is shaping new retailing models in pharmacies and supermarkets.

Dr Gary Mortimer, a specialist in advertising, marketing and public relations from the Queensland University of Technology Business School, outlined a collaborative model where patient minor ailments were addressed by pharmacy in the first instance.
"A disjointed, adversarial approach is dangerous. This will drive consumers to make discreet choices amongst channel players. Consumers will benefit from a collaborative approach to healthcare," he said.

Ms Francine Nieto, Global Marketing Director, Consumer Health, for IMS Health outlined projections for global and regional performance of the over-the-counter (OTC) medicines sector.

She said that Australia has experienced annual growth in the OTC sector of 6% in the last year, outpacing the prescription medicines sector's growth of 4.5%.

Vitamins and weight loss products show high value growth, while smaller categories such as dietary supplements and oral electrolyte replacers show above average growth.
"The success of the vitamin and mineral supplement category, which helps drive OTC growth, reflects a trend toward improved everyday health and wellbeing and common ailment prevention that we are seeing in a number of countries," Ms Nieto said.
Outgoing ASMI President, Lindsay Forrest, told the conference that the industry was going through a period of "unprecedented reform", particularly in the regulatory sphere, with a number of major consultations underway.

ASMI Executive Director, Dr Deon Schoombie extended his thanks to Mr Forrest who is retiring from Reckitt Benckiser at the end of 2012, and stepping down as ASMI President after two years in the role.
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.

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