#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.

Nielsen-CHPA Survey on OTC Allergy Trends

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Coughing, sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes are just some of the symptoms of seasonal or chronic allergies, one of the most common ailments impacting the lives of Americans today, according to a new white paper on Rx-to-OTC allergy switches, produced by Nielsen and the US OTC industry association, Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA).

In 2015, 27.8% of Americans suffered from allergies, which translates to approximately 69 million adults, and 89 million people overall. Since 2009, a number of ingredients, including antihistamines and intranasal steroids that were only available Rx, have now switched to OTC, giving consumers more options to treat their allergies.

While there is abundant data to show that allergy OTC sales have grown significantly owing to the increasing number of brands available, there haven’t been many studies conducted to understand how these Rx-to- OTC switches have benefitted allergy sufferers.

Nielsen’s latest report assesses the consumer benefits of allergy Rx-OTC switches to help gain an understanding of allergy-suffering consumers and how having access to more oral and nasal OTC medications has contributed to their financial and personal wellbeing.

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The survey is made up of data based around allergy patient visits, the number of prescriptions written by month, the costs for each, and corresponding insurance-related costs. Nielsen also provided data on allergy sufferer penetration, their buying behaviour, and how each consumer treats their ailment. 
A survey was also fielded to 2,000 adult allergy sufferers to better understand their treatment routine and overall satisfaction with their medication options.

The report found that more and more Americans are suffering from allergies. Over the time period analysed, the number of individuals who stated that they suffer from allergies has increased. There are approximately 9.7mn more allergy sufferers today than there were
 in 2010.

There has also been a clear shift to OTCs. 
The number of allergy sufferers taking OTCs has increased, while 
at the same time the number of sufferers taking prescription medications has declined. Just as importantly, the report also found that allergy sufferers who take OTCs are highly satisfied with the medication options available to them.

The report is available to download here.

Bion 3 Senior launched in Chile

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Last month, Merck KGaA rolled out Bion 3 Senior in Chile. The product – which contains vitamins B, C + D plus minerals, probiotics and ginseng – is a blend specifically tailored to the needs of people aged over 50 years.

The product has previously been advertised on TV using the slogan, “¡Activa tu vitalidad!” (Activate your vitality!), and has also featured in advertorials explaining how the body’s immune function tends to weaken with age.

The latest ad, which came out earlier this month, features a man restoring a motorbike for his mother, who had to give up doing so herself once her son was born. The ad then says “Los soñadores nunca envejecen. Encuentra tu fuerza interior en bion3.cl/senior”, which translates to, “Dreamers never age. Find your inner strength at bion3.cl/senior”. Followed by “Siempre hay tiempo para tus sueños“, meaning “There’s always time for your dreams”.

Nicholas Hall’s report on Healthy Ageing: The Expanding OTC Market for 50+ Consumers explores the existing market for Healthy Ageing OTCs, as well as identifying opportunities for future growth. Taking a detailed look at OTC offerings for 50+ consumers in 12 key markets across the globe, reviewing key brands, sales and strategies, this exclusive report could be groundbreaking for your OTC marketing scheme. For more details, contact ian.crook@NicholasHall.com or CLICK HERE!

American Health Care Act unveiled

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The Trump administration’s long-awaited replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act has now been released. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) was developed in conjunction with the White House and Senate Republicans.

Despite the replacement plan being released, two big questions still remain unanswered. How many people will the plan cover and how much will it cost?

It is likely that the plan will cover fewer people than the Affordable Care Act currently does, but exactly how many has not been specified. The Congressional Budget office has not yet scored the legislation, so the current costs are unknown.

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Early assessment of the replacement act seems to indicate that:

  • Some of Obamacare’s signature features have been entirely eradicated, such as the tax on people who don’t purchase healthcare. Other protections, including the ban on discriminating in regard to people with pre-existing conditions and the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, would survive
  • The plan maintains the Medicaid expansion – the Affordable Care Act has expanded Medicaid to cover millions of low-income Americans
  • According to critics, the replacement plan benefits people who are healthy and high-income and disadvantages those who are sick and lower income. The replacement plan would make several changes to what health insurers can charge enrolees who purchase insurance on the individual market, as well as changing what benefits their plans must cover
  • The bill looks a lot more like Obamacare than previous drafts. A curious thing has happened to the Republican replacement plan as it has evolved through multiple drafts; it has begun to look more and more like Obamacare itself.

Nicholas Hall will be bringing his regional conference series to North America in 2017, with our 1st North American OTC Conference, being held in the OTC hub of New Jersey on 27-28 June 2017. You can join us for a gloves-off discussion on how recent political changes in the US will affect future healthcare. Early Bird rates are available until the end of March only! Please contact lianne.hill@NicholasHall.com now to find out more or register your interest.

Are wearables wearing thin?

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The wearables market has had a rollercoaster ride in recent months. This time a year ago analysts were penning multi-billion dollar forecasts for the developers of health trackers and smartwatches. Apple was setting the stakes high, brazenly selling a gold edition of the Apple Watch for US$10,000.

More recently though, once popular fitness tracker brand, Jawbone, confirmed to TechCrunch that it would be leaving the consumer market in order to focus on healthcare providers. Microsoft have also removed its Fitness Band from its online store (although it is still available on Amazon); most significantly they will no longer provide the Band developer kits.

Fitbit remains a leading brand name, and is still very much the heart of the fitness tracker revolution. Fitbit recently acquired one of its rivals, Pebble Watch. However, on the downside, it was reported that the company were making staff cuts and founder James Park said the firm had experienced “softer than expected” sales during the 2016 Christmas period.

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Numerous devices claim to measure heart rate, sleep activity and count calories. Counting steps is seemingly the most common use for wearable devices, which has been edifying for many in terms of daily exercise expectations. Recently, though, experts have questioned whether the golden goal of walking 10,000 steps a day is actually worthwhile, and a US study concluded that health trackers did not aid weight loss.

Mr Bryant from Futuresource says many wearables aren’t yet independent enough and rely on being tethered to a smartphone, or replicate functionality, such as step counting, that the handset already has. However, Mr Bryant believes that while wearables may be down, they are not yet out.

“We feel the slowdown is temporary and the market will accelerate this year,” he said. He thinks that improved power, appearance, and mobile pay options could give them a boost alongside a maturing user group.

Wearable Devices will be one of many themes explored at our 28th Annual OTC INSIGHT European Conference & Action Workshop, being held in Munich in just over a month! The wider conference will focus on the theme of Making the Most of New Technology. To reserve one of our final few places, please contact lianne.hill@NicholasHall.com

New advice says eat 10 fruit & veg per day

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A study by Imperial College London has suggested we should eat 10 portions of fruit & vegetables a day. The study said that such eating habits could prevent 7.8 million premature deaths each year. The study also identified particular fruit & vegetables that reduced the risk of cancer and heart disease.

A portion counts as 80g (3oz) of fruit or vegetables, which is equal to a small banana, a pear, or three heaped tablespoons of spinach or peas. The findings were based on pooled data on 95 separate studies, involving the eating habits of two million people.

Lower risk of cancer was linked to eating green vegetables such as spinach and kale, yellow vegetables and cauliflower. Lower risk of heart disease and strokes was linked to eating apples, pears, citrus fruits and leafy greens.

The results, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, also assessed the risk of dying before your time. Compared with eating no fruit or veg a day, it showed:

  • 200g cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 13% while 800g cut the risk by 28%
  • 200g cut the risk of cancer by 4%, while 800g cut the risk by 13%
  • 200g cut the risk of a premature death by 15%, while 800g cut the risk by 31%

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The researchers do not know if eating even more fruit & vegetables than the newly suggested 10 portions would have even greater health benefits, as there is little evidence out there to review.

Dr Dagfinn Aune, one of the researchers, said: “Fruit & vegetables have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, blood pressure and to boost the health of our blood vessels and immune system.” He continued: “This may be due to the complex network of nutrients they hold, including many antioxidants, which may reduce DNA damage and lead to a reduction in cancer risk.”

However the study also said that the benefits of this would be hard to integrate as many people struggle to even eat the five a day (400g) which is recommended by the World Health Organization. In the UK, only about one in three people eat this recommended portion, showing the huge potential for VMS marketers in terms of targeting their supplements at people that don’t eat their 10 fruit & veg a day.