Three simple steps to better outcomes for consumers’ health and the economy
24 January 2017
The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) has issued a trio of recommendations to the Federal Government outlining key mechanisms that will provide consumers with better access to information and medicines to self-manage their health, provide savings for the national healthcare system, and drive innovation, research and growth in the Australian healthcare products industry.
The recommendations form the basis of ASMI’s pre-Budget submission, which emphasises the high value of OTC medicines to the Australian health system. Consumer research from Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy (MUCHE)1estimates that if the eight largest categories of OTC medicines were not available, there would be an estimated58 million additional GP visits. The cost of this would be approximately$3.86 billion per year – $2.5 billion would be borne by Medicare, $1.04 billion by consumers and $360 million by health insurers. This cost increases toover $10 billion per annum if the indirectcosts of visiting a doctor (e.g. productivity losses) are taken into account.
ASMI’s three key recommendations can be summarised as:
- Develop a ‘switch’ agenda and reform the Australian scheduling policy framework. The down-scheduling (‘switch’) of medicines from prescription to over-the-counter (OTC) with mandatory consultation with a pharmacist is a key enabler for consumers to better self manage their health. A regulatory environment favourable to switch would encourage innovation in OTC medicines and also provide significant savings to the healthcare system.
- Reduce restrictions on direct-to-consumer communications for Pharmacist Only (S3) medicines. Schedule 3 (S3) medicines are used to treat a range of everyday conditions (e.g. cold sores, conjunctivitis, mouth ulcers), yet the current default regulatory position dis-empowers consumers because ‘they are not allowed to know’ about these medicines. ASMI proposes that these restrictions be revised in the interest of raising consumer awareness of safe and proven therapeutic products that the public already has access to.
- Introduce data/market exclusivity mechanisms to stimulate research and innovation. Currently, a limiting factor to investment in innovation is that non-prescription medicines (both OTC and complementary) do not benefit from the same level of intellectual property protection as prescription medicines. Mechanisms such as data and market exclusivity provide incentives for companies to invest in research and innovation. Consumers win because this will expand the range of evidence-based non-prescription medicines available for self-care.
ASMI believes that the adoption of these recommendations will contribute to reducing Medicare and PBS costs and increase the sustainability of the Australian healthcare system, while also increasing consumer empowerment for improved health outcomes.
See the full pre-Budget submission here.
. Macquarie University Centre for the Health Economy: The Value of OTC Medicines in Australia, March 2014
Australian sunscreens meet highest standards
02 February 2017
Consumers can be assured that Australia continues to have some of the world’s most demanding controls on primary sunscreens, which are regulated as medicines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
ASMI advises consumers that all sunscreens, like any other topical product, may cause skin irritation or other adverse reactions in an extremely low proportion of the population. This is why it is imperative to test a new sunscreen – especially when used on young children – on a small patch of skin (e.g. on wrist).
Sunscreens sold in Australia provide benefits that are potentially lifesaving, but these come only when the instructions for use are followed. These include:
- check the expiry date and follow guidelines for storage (e.g. do not leave in hot cars)
- applying sunscreen liberally and carefully 20 minutes before skin exposure to sunlight
- reapply regularly to avoid rub-off through toweling, swimming, and perspiration.
ASMI urges consumers who experience strong sunburn or a suspected adverse reaction to sunscreen to see a healthcare professional immediately. Any adverse reaction to a sunscreen should be reported to your doctor and the company listed on the sunscreen label and/or the TGA, which has an online form for consumers here.
It is also important to recognise that sunscreens are just one part of a Sun Smart strategy. The other steps include wearing protective clothing, wearing a hat and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure by staying in the shade as much as possible, particularly during the hottest part of the day. ASMI stresses that over this hot Australian Summer, UV indexes have often been in the ‘Extreme’ range and the high-risk sun exposure time has often been listed on weather reports as 9:30am to 5:30pm rather than just a few hours in the middle of the day.
The Australasian College of Dermatologists recommends keeping babies under 12 months out of direct sun and the period when UV radiation of the sun is at its most intense, in addition to using other forms of sun protection, such as hats, clothing, and sunglasses. Sunscreen products should be used only when the conditions above cannot be avoided. Liberal amounts of sunscreen should be applied for babies of six months or older before they are allowed out in the sun for short periods of time. Infants under six months of age should be kept out of the sun.
As medicines, consumers should be reassured that sunscreens have one responsible, capable and independent body for oversight of the products for sale in Australia. These TGA controls include permitted ingredients assessed safe for use in the product, quality of the manufacturing sites, labelling, advertising, and complaints and adverse event review. The TGA has explained more about their sunscreen testing here.
OTC NSAIDs have a role in treatment of acute pain
03 February 2017
The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) stated today that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and diclofenac remain a suitable choice for relief of acute pain for most people.
This statement was in response to reporting of an Australian study at the George Institute for Global Health, which looked at the effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs on back pain.
“This study has no impact on whether you should take OTC (over-the-counter) NSAIDs for short-term, acute pain,” says ASMI Director Regulatory and Scientific Affairs, Steve Scarff. “The millions of Australians who have experienced relief from acute pain through the short-term use of NSAIDs as directed on the label can continue to have confidence in their choice of product.”
OTC NSAIDs have a long history of use and remain one of the top-selling categories of OTC medications. The labels of these products clearly direct consumers that these medications are for short-term use only (typically 3-5 days). These products are appropriate for and intended for use in minor conditions that can be self-diagnosed by consumers and usually do not require any further medical intervention. These include, but are not limited to, muscular pain, arthritic pain, headache, dental pain and back pain.
Label instructions for OTC NSAIDs always direct consumers to consult a healthcare professional if pain relief is inadequate or if pain persists.
Persistent or chronic pain should always be managed through consultation with a healthcare professional, who will assess the risks and benefits of drug treatments and make recommendations for the multi-faceted approach to treatment (e.g. exercise physiology, physiotherapy, etc.) that is often required for these conditions.