OTCs in Action Episode 7: Distribution, Classification Matters

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As a consumer of OTCs in the US, I can buy OTCs and dietary supplements in any store, and have the freedom to self-select – I simply lift the product off the shelf, put it in my basket and pay for it. This is not the case in many countries worldwide, where distribution of OTCs is limited to pharmacies, and often requires the medicines to be given to the consumers by a pharmacist or technician.

This week, OTCs are in Action in Latin America. Nicholas Hall & Company’s bi-monthly periodical, OTC INSIGHT Latin America, has reported on two very different events that are equally important in ensuring consumer access to OTC medicines.

In Argentina, the Buenos Aires Propuesta Republicana (PRO) party has made a proposal to allow the sale of OTCs through self-selection displays in pharmacies located in the autonomous state of Buenos Aires. According to PRO party member, Helio Rebot, “the idea is to facilitate access to those medicines most often required for everyday use.”

There has been much debate in recent years as to whether BA should adhere to the national law, which requires that OTCs be stored behind the pharmacy counter, thus curbing self-selection, or whether the state should be allowed to make its own rules on this issue. While the PRO initiative acknowledges the need for a pharmacist’s presence to “address consumer concerns”, the proposal also calls for “the option of home delivery of OTCs” via a telephone order system. Nicholas Hall & Company will be following this story closely.

Elsewhere in the region, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has halted an initiative by regulatory body INVIMA that would have limited access to many traditional and herbal remedies by converting them to Rx status. Regulatory Director Elvira Cajigas de Acosta subsequently indicated that there will be a case-by-case revision of about 60 natural ingredients, and maintained that the reverse-switch of “two or three” may be considered.

Traditional and herbal remedies are a mainstay of self-medication worldwide, but their OTC status is in jeopardy in many countries as governments try to classify proven, legitimate remedies appropriately, while using enforcement action to tackle adulterated and falsely advertised products.

To learn more about Insight OTC INSIGHT Latin America, visit www.nicholashall.com.

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