New Australian research features in WSMI GA call to recognise economic value of self care, switch

19 October 2017

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The world-first launch of Australian research will feature front and centre at the World Self Medication Industry (WSMI) General Assembly in Sydney today, where global healthcare experts will call for a greater emphasis to be placed on the economic value of self care.

An international line-up of speakers will argue that governments are underestimating the contribution the non-prescription medicines sector makes to better health outcomes, the economic sustainability of health systems and more efficient utilization of healthcare resources.

A world-first presentation of new Australian research from Macquarie University will demonstrate why Australia requires a health-economic dimension to determine what medicines consumers can access and how they can access them. Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy researcher Dr Bonny Parkinson will be joined by several international leaders in healthcare in arguing the economic case for processes that will expedite the evolution of medicines from prescription-only access to over-the-counter access. Speakers include Josh Noone from Precision Health Economics and Dr Eric P. Brass.

Dr Parkinson's research demonstrates that an economic evaluation approach could be applied to enhance the decision-making process on how consumers access medicines.

"Economic evaluations consider the impact on healthcare resource use and costs, in addition to the impact on health outcomes," Dr Parkinson says.

"Down-scheduling of medicines can improve patient health outcomes by reducing barriers to treatment, reducing the time to symptom relief, and improving treatment rates and adherence. Consequently, the onset of related diseases may be prevented, or disease progression may be delayed or reduced."

Dr Parker also points out how greater access to medicines can enable valuable healthcare resources to be used by the patients who need them most.

"Allowing a medicine to be available over-the-counter is likely to reduce GP attendances just to obtain prescriptions, but improved health outcomes will also lead to less demand for other forms of healthcare, such as diagnostic tests and hospitalisations." 

While consumers value the convenience of non-prescription medicines, the potential benefits extend to improving consumer health and increasing the efficiency of healthcare delivery," says Dr Eric Brass, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of California. Dr Brass' presentation will focus on the success of the 'switch' of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) from prescription-only to over-the-counter access in the USA. In the decade prior to the introduction of the first non-prescription PPIs in 2003, there was a steady increase in physician visits for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), but this trend in physician visits abruptly plateaued from 2004-2012. It is estimated that if the pre-2004 trend had continued, there would have been an additional 5.2 million primary care visits for GERD in 2012.

"Doctor time is money," says Josh Noone from Precision Health Economics (USA). Mr Noone will argue that another important key component to the health economic contribution of non-prescription medicines around the world is the argue that the greater self-management of health conditions enabled by increased access to medicines delivers productivity gains for doctors, which results in time that can be reallocated to the management of more severe cases where it is needed.

The final session of the WSMI General Assembly focuses on switch and features new research from Griffith University and presentations featuring and switch experts Dr Edwin Hemwall and Dr Natalie Gauld. The Griffith University research, led by Denise Hope, examines which prescription medicines consumers currently expect to access over-the-counter, the medicines pharmacists recommend for prescription-to-OTC switch, and pharmacy readiness for such switches.

Key findings include:

  • More than 70% of pharmacy staff are asked for non-prescription access to prescription medicines at least weekly.
  • Most commonly requested prescription meds over-the-counter are: antibiotics (24%), analgesics (19%) and contraceptives (11%).
  • Nearly 90% pharmacists agreed that opposition from other health professional bodies is a major barrier to change.
  • Medicines proposed by the pharmacy profession for reclassification align with those available as non-prescription overseas.
  • The most frequently requested prescription medicines often aligned with those considered potential targets for reclassification.
  • Pharmacists agreed on the need to identify and campaign for further potential S3 candidates e.g. more potent or larger quantities of topical corticosteroids.

Interview opportunities can be arranged with all speakers.
For today's program details, see