Apple deal with device maker sign of more to come?

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Apple announced at its recent WorldWide Developers Conference in California that it would soon be offering users the chance to monitor their glucose levels. The company has partnered with medical device maker Dexcom and will link the company’s glucose monitoring device with the Apple Watch.

For some time now, Apple has been positioning itself as a dedicated health and fitness provider through the Apple Watch series. However, while Apple has previously marketed itself towards lifestyle and fitness fanatics, it has yet to enter the medical device sector.

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Apple has also previously been reported to be hiring a small team of biomechanical engineers to develop sensors that monitor the body’s blood sugar levels. The team are said to be working on non-invasive sensors that do no require users to prick their skin for blood testing.

Apple is also now home to our new OTC DASHBOARD app. To download it from the Apple Store now, click here.

App helps cancer patients extend life

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Scientists have discovered a new medical intervention that can extend the lives of cancer sufferers by a number of months. The discovery is not a novel drug or therapy, it is an app. Patients who reported their symptoms via a tablet survived for five months longer than those who did not, according to a large study which was presented at the world’s biggest oncology meeting yesterday.

The research highlighted the role that cheap and simple tech can play in providing healthcare at a time when drug makers are suffering controversy for the ever-rising cost of prescribed medicines.

Patients were told to report 12 symptoms such as sleeping and breathing difficulties using the app, which was referred to as an electronic patient report system or ePro. If patients took a turn for the worse, an automatic push notification was sent to alert a doctor or nurse. “The system proactively monitored symptoms, so that the care team was able to intervene earlier and catch things before they became more severe,” said Dr Ethan Basch, an oncologist and professor at the University of North Carolina, who led the trial.

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Dr Basch said patients using the app were able to stay on chemotherapy “for substantially longer” than others because they were less likely to turn up to the hospital in a weak state and as a repercussion, not be strong enough to handle the punishing treatment. The ePro patients were also less likely to be admitted to hospital, meaning they did not become bed-bound or acquire an infection like C. difficile while on the ward.

Oncologists have long believed that ePro apps can improve a person’s quality of life, but this is the first time that is has been proven to boost survival in a large number of patients with a broad and varied range of cancers. Patients who used the purpose-built app typically survived for 31 months versus 26 months for those who did not, according to the research, which was unveiled at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Asco).

More than half of UK’s e-cig users give up tobacco

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A survey of 12,000 adults for Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found some 1.5 million vapers are now ex-smokers, compared with 1.3 million who still use tobacco.

However, ASH stated that the message that vaping was much less harmful than smoking was still yet to get through to all smokers. Some 9mn still smoke in the UK despite a big rise in e-cigarette use.

In 2012, there were 700,000 vapers in the UK; now there are 2.9mn. The main reason ex-smokers give for vaping is to help them stop smoking. Current smokers say they do it principally to reduce the amount they smoke.

Scientists say evidence suggests that the risks of exposure to toxins for e-cigarette users are likely to be low – and much lower than with tobacco.

Deborah Arnott, the campaigning health charity’s chief executive, said the figures on vapers who had quit smoking were “excellent news” but added that the rate of people switching to electronic versions had peaked. “The rapid growth in e-cigarette use has come to an end,” she said.

This is owing to more than a third of smokers having still never tried e-cigarettes, as a result of concerns about their safety and addictiveness. However, research suggests that 26% of people think e-cigarettes are more – or as equally – harmful as smoking tobacco while only 13% believe they are a lot less harmful.

“It’s very important smokers realise that vaping is much, much less harmful than smoking,” Arnott continued.

People who combine electronic and standard cigarette smoking are still being exposed to the cancer-causing substances in tobacco smoke, increasing their risk of lung cancers, bronchitis and other diseases, although Public Health England believes levels of nicotine in e-cigarettes are unlikely to pose any significant health risk.

Pfizer unveils antimicrobial ATLAS

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Last week Pfizer announced the launch of the their Antimicrobial Testing Leadership and Surveillance (ATLAS) website. The site is designed to supply physicians and the global health community with easy access to crucial data on the efficacy of numerous antibiotic treatments and emerging resistance patterns across more than 60 countries.

The interpretation of evolving bacterial resistance patterns is a key development in the process of understanding and managing the rise of antimicrobial resistance. Putting this into perspective, ATLAS can not only help physicians select the most appropriate treatment choices for their patients but also enable global health authorities to develop data-driven antimicrobial resistance mitigation strategies.

Pfizer officially unveiled ATLAS at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ECCMID) in Vienna last Saturday. With smartphones and tablets providing such benefits for healthcare professionals these days, Pfizer also offers ATLAS as a mobile app to enable speedy access to vital resistance information during patient care.

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The application works as an interactive platform allowing physicians to evaluate data, conduct analyses and export tables and figures that include parameters such as pathogen, region, specimen source and in vitro susceptibility data.

Another great benefit is that the database is updated every six months with new resistance data from healthcare institutions in over 60 countries.

Dr Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, said the database was “an important aspect for physicians when treating patients”, adding that “knowledge of where certain resistant bacterial infections tend to occur and knowledge of which antibiotics remain effective against them”. The CMO further added: “ATLAS underscores our continued commitment to providing patients and physicians with meaningful resources that can help ensure appropriate utilisation of antibiotics and improve infection prevention and control.”

#NHOTC17: Day 2

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This week we publish our second and final blog update on our 28th European OTC INSIGHT conference, which took place in Munich earlier this month and was centred on the theme of Making the Most of New Technology. Below is a quick round-up of proceedings on Day 2.

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Ed Rowland opens Day 2 proceedings

Ed Rowland opened the conference with an update on key drivers and dynamics in the US OTC strategic landscape. Akhil Chandra of Reckitt Benckiser led us into our final networking hour with a discussion on what makes an iconic brand in a world of biosimilar products. Chandra based his talk around the “iconicity” of Nurofen, insisting that when it comes to brands we should challenge the tendency to default, and instead create, identify and nurture iconic / symbolic elements.

Following an hour of networking with OTC peers, our delegates returned for our final session with Jesus Carrasco, Head of Healthcare at Société Générale, who discussed consolidation and the increasing attractiveness of the consumer healthcare industry from a corporate and investor perspective.

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Thornsten Umland from Bayer gave the final presentation on strategic growth and how to build OTC businesses and brands via well executed acquisition and true product innovation.

And finally, a personal message from Nicholas: “Thank you all for making a brilliantly successful conference, the array of speakers and topics covered have certainly left us all with food for thought on the OTC landscape in a world of digital!

As an official announcement, now the conference has ended, we hope to see you next year in… BARCELONA for our 29th European OTC conference #NHOTC18. Auf Wiedersehen or should I say… Adios!”

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#NHOTC17: Day 1

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Our 28th European OTC INSIGHT conference, centred on the theme of Making the Most of New Technology, took place in Munich last week. Following Nicholas’ annual overview of the global OTC market, and what’s ahead, there was a packed schedule of presentations on topics including the future of digital OTC and what we see technology providers delivering now and in the future.

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Nicholas Hall kicked off proceedings on Day 1

Richard Learwood of PGT Healthcare got our brains into gear on the morning of Day 1 with a thought-provoking discussion on accelerating growth in consumer healthcare, and this was shortly followed by Dr Dennis Ballwieser, of Wort & Bild, who shed some light on the future of partnerships in digital publishing and how digital is affecting the print industry in healthcare.

Leading into the lunch session, Infirst Healthcare’s Manfred Scheske led a thought-provoking session, which showed us how our industry is extremely focused on Strategic Growth and Share Grab, but needs to step up its ambition to shape market conditions and to grow markets. He addressed the increasing number of line extensions, which have successfully grown many big OTC brands, but less and less new products offer meaningful news, and patients and pharmacists and the general public are increasingly irritated and confused by the tidal wave of ‘plus’, ‘forte’, ‘extra’, ‘ultra’, ‘max’, ‘advance’, ‘extra advance’, ‘rapid’, ‘express’, etc.” Certainly food for the mind before we ate our lunch!

After lunch, Alison Hartley from Sanofi got the conference back into swing with a presentation on Digital Excellence, explaining that content is key but distribution is queen! Alison also delved into the many ways that digital has enabled us to do things we wouldn’t have been able to do without digital media.

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Alison Hartley focuses on Digital Excellence in OTC

Our very own Monica Feldman also enlightened us on e-connecting the revenue dots, explaining that VIRAL = REVENUE and to have this you must have humour, heart, brains and guts. Trevor Gore of Maestro Consulting took to the stage as our final speaker on Day 1, alongside David Taylor, leading us to contemplate whether technology is helping us or making us addicts? Trevor certainly lifted spirits with his stand up presenting style!

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Our Global Director of Client Services, Monica Feldman

Look out for more Dashboard blog content coming soon, including Day 2 of the conference and the Nicholas Hall Awards. As an official announcement now the conference has ended, we hope to see you next year in… Barcelona, for our 29th European OTC conference #NHOTC18.

Self-care in Canada: Meandering Path to New Regulations

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Mathematically, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. However, in public policy it is rare to chart such a clear direction. Reading through the “What was Heard” report from Health Canada’s public consultation on self-care regulation, which was conducted online in late 2016, there does not appear to be any real consensus over new proposals for an overhaul of all the regulations for non-prescription medicines, Natural Health Products (NHPs) and cosmetics.

Although the report was completed months ago, it was only released in late March this year, as a backgrounder to a series of town hall style discussions on a more detailed set of changes starting 4th April. While the government has developed a more detailed set of proposals that address some of the concerns set out in the report from last year’s consultation, it would appear that those attending the provincial feedback forums will not have the opportunity to digest these details prior to giving their advice. In fact, one of the key findings of the report was that all stakeholders felt that the original outline lacks enough specificity to make cogent comment.

Reading the report, it is interesting how what was heard may not actually be fully representative of what was said. For example, the report concludes that “many participants in the consultation see considerable value in the clarity that would be provided by a single regulatory approach to all three affected areas” (i.e. cosmetics, NHPs and OTCs). What the data show is that in virtually all stakeholder categories, the support across several key measures was only around 30%. Taken another way, roughly 70% or more of the stakeholders would not be more confident in these proposals.

The report notes that most of the concerns came from the NHP segment. This should not be a surprise since all previous consultations were only about moving OTCs out of the prescription drug regulations. For non-prescription medicines, this was round two of the discussions but for the NHP and cosmetics sectors this was novel territory. The visceral reaction was clear given that the NHP community spent years developing a set of regulations independent from drug classification and achieved it through a parliamentary process. They perceived that rolling all OTCs and NHPs into one single regulation was a step back in time, especially given the tone of the documents about claims-based barriers to market access.

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There weren’t many points where all stakeholders agreed. However, it seems there was a strong consensus that self-care products (OTCs, NHPs and cosmetics) “should not be regulated in the same manner as prescription drugs”. Far from an epiphany, this was the basis for the idea that OTCs should be granted their own regulations outside the prescription regulations, just as NHPs were granted such regulatory status. Cosmetics have never been in the prescription drug framework.

There was no consensus on the specific elements of the new framework. The risk-based approach was supported to the degree that most agreed that “products which pose a greater risk of harm should receive greater scrutiny and be subject to significant requirements”. Where the consensus fell into disarray was around the confusion between evaluating products for their individual risk and categorising products broadly into risk levels. The proposal seemed to set out a lower-risk category where claims would be limited and as such the government would not review and license them for sale. This type of product would be supported by pre-cleared information such as monographs.

The logic suffered in some stakeholders’ view since the model would seem to require lower-risk products to move into higher risk categorisation when clinical data would be provided to create greater confidence in the claims. The report notes that “there is no consensus that the proposed risk-based approach would create more confidence when purchasing self-care products”. In fact, 82% of consumers and healthcare professionals and 93% of cosmetics manufacturers said it would not give them more confidence.

The thought of requiring only “scientific” proof to justify health claims met with resistance from most stakeholders (except the five OTC drug companies). Only 30% of all respondents agreed with this notion and that was not highly differentiated across several segments. The support for stricter reliance on “science” (not defined but often assumed to be clinical trial data) was low with consumers (30%), healthcare professionals (33%), NHP companies (21%) and cosmetics manufacturers (30%). On the other side of the argument, academics and researchers were more supportive (60%).

A concept floated by government was that they would not evaluate and license certain types of products based on the types of claims being made. This was suggested to be accompanied by a disclaimer that Health Canada did not assess the claim. While cosmetics already enjoy a similar notification system, most stakeholders didn’t appear to support adopting a cosmetic-like system for OTCs and NHPs. The report notes that “participants are somewhat divided on the use of a disclaimer on products whose efficacy would not be reviewed”.

Despite the lack of consensus on a disclaimer, there would appear to be acceptance that changes could be made that would “facilitate informed consumer choice”. Some stakeholders have proposed adding labelling statements that would make it clearer when traditional evidence was used to support the claim. This, they feel, would add information that enhances consumer choice.

This consultation elicited a very strong response relative to most government consultations. Perhaps this was influenced by the fact that during the consultation period, Health Canada put out a very strong social media campaign and used traditional media stories to “clarify” some aspects of their proposals. With the communications efforts to ensure that the consultation garnered significant and reasoned responses, it should give some confidence in the results.

Perhaps one of the most telling observations related to the confidence stakeholders would have in the newly designed system. Consumers (78%), healthcare professionals (75%), NHP companies (80%) and cosmetics firms (63%) did not feel more confident with the new proposals. In a similar vein, 82% of consumers didn’t feel that the proposals adequately addressed their needs. The numbers were similar for healthcare professionals (78%), NHP companies (81%) and cosmetics businesses (74%). Only two OTC companies felt that their concerns were addressed.

The report concludes that “there is clearly a need for further detail on the proposed approach so that stakeholders may provide more specific feedback to Health Canada as the framework continues to be developed”. No doubt this is true and, as the government heads into the next phase of face-to face discussions, it would have been helpful to have that kind of detail available before asking stakeholders to respond.