Retail choices needed to promote greater self care for the health consumer

19 March 2012

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The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) today reaffirmed its support for a diversity of retail choices for consumers, and rejected a call by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to be withdrawn from supermarkets.

ASMI was responding to reported comments in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, in which AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton said he supported a call to pull pharmaceuticals from supermarkets.

The Executive Director of ASMI, Dr Deon Schoombie said it was disappointing that the AMA should be seeking to overturn a pillar of Australia's regulatory policy in regard to access to consumer medicines.

"The availability of medicines in grocery outlets is a longstanding component of Australia's approach to medicines regulation, which is based on the benefit/risk profile of each product, and overseen by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
"It is worth remembering that Australia is, in no way, out of step with like-markets around the world in regard to these regulations.

"In fact, Australia has fewer non-prescription products available for consumers in self-selection outlets compared to countries such as the US, UK and New Zealand.
"Pack sizes in self-selection outlets for medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are capped by the regulator at 24 tablets packs, and there is no evidence to suggest that consumers are bulk-purchasing these products. Nor is there any direct evidence of adverse health events due to supposed easier access of this small selection of healthcare products by consumers.

"Both supermarkets and pharmacies play a key role in the healthcare landscape, enabling consumers to have appropriate access to medicines, for them and their families, at a convenient place and time. Approximately 25% of OTC sales are through non-pharmacy channels.

"Where consumers need advice or have specialised needs and are looking for stronger products, pharmacy plays a key role. For minor ailments such as headaches, basic colds or simple indigestion, where the consumer is familiar with their needs and the product they require, supermarkets play a key role for those purchases.

"We all have a responsibility to look at appropriate ways in which we can encourage effective self-care for the consumer, in keeping with the principles of our world-leading regulatory system," Dr Schoombie 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.

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