Nicholas Hall Writes from Istanbul

NHPostcard.2014Nicholas Hall’s Postcard from Istanbul: I’m here to scout venues for a May 2014 OTC Action Workshop (make a note in your diary!). We are also working with Turkish pharma association AIFD to lobby the Ministry of Health to set up a fully-functioning OTC sector and, along with Network Partner, Tulay Izbul, I’ll be feeling the pulse of the market on this trip.

But France not Turkey is on my mind today, as I just returned from a short trip to Paris. The local industry is stunned by a revenue decline of up to 7%, the figure we are showing in DB6 for the 12 months to September 2013 (Rx sales of OTC sales included). These semi-ethicals have declined faster than pure OTCs owing to cutbacks in reimbursement. France has fallen in the rankings but is still the 7th largest OTC market globally with a 3.9% share. Traditionally it was a growth driver, relying on strong reimbursed OTCs, but this sector has been under government attack in recent years.

With the shock news from a US Surgeon General report, that 5.6mn children will die prematurely from smoking related diseases, it’s clear that lifestyle indications like these, sold within a framework of Pharmacy Point-of-Care where the French pharmacist excels, could be the way to renewed growth in France and elsewhere. But the industry lags in lifestyle medicines, as it does in the uptake of mHealth.

How ironic that regulators engage more with stakeholders through social media than the healthcare industry. With research from IMS showing that only 23 of the world’s top 50 pharma companies actively engage with patients on platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Many players run scared of discovering adverse effects this way, but many do not. Sometimes, it seems to me, internal compliance barriers are set higher than legal ones.

On a positive note, it’s good to see J&J’s OTC business recovering so well, with a 6.1% increase in sales over the FY 2013.

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