Google Launches “Health Cards” in Australia

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Self-diagnosis can often lead to much panic and anxiety. UK newspaper The Telegraph reported in a 2015 survey that one in four of us choose to self-diagnose on the internet instead of visiting doctors. With OTC products so readily available in numerous regions, self-diagnosis could lead to self-medicating incorrectly.

Last week, Google launched verified medical information in Australian search results, detailing common health complaints such as coughs, infections, rashes and snakebites. However, Australian doctors have warned that while the information might be a conversation starter, it could lead to misdiagnoses and should never replace seeing a specialist.

Google revealed plans to launch Health Cards as part of Google search results in Australia after working on the project with doctors and medical agencies, one of which was the Mayo Clinic. The cards cover the details and symptoms of over 900 health conditions and diseases recommending next steps for concerned sufferers.

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llnesses and concerns featured in Google’s Health Cards will include tonsillitis, coeliac disease and eye infections, with some cards also featuring animated GIFs to demonstrate illnesses. Google Health Cards programme manager Isobel Solaqua said the project was created to address the growing number of medical questions fired at its search engine, stating that: “In fact, one in 20 Google searches are for health-related information … We developed this feature to help people find the health information they need more quickly and easily.”

Australian Medical Association federal vice-president Dr Tony Bartone said users should be “careful not to substitute health information for a qualified medical opinion”. Dr Bartone added that Google’s Health Cards could help patients refine questions for their doctor but medical professionals did not “want to end up with 50 reams of Google pages” brought into consultations.

Online health advice offers us a potential quick fix solution for ongoing health issues, enabling us to ease discomfort and anxiety. Considering this, Google Health Cards will no doubt be a feature that is used and appreciated by many. Though consultants have expressed concerns about confusion and misdiagnosis, is there the potential that this could boost OTC sales and allow people to avoid visiting consultants for minor issues?

OTC Vending Machines in USA IN 2017?

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Vending machines are commonly used for distributing fizzy pop or a sugary / savoury snack to perhaps curb a period of waiting, quench thirst or eat on the go. Now that self-service is so available to us, why not use vending machines to offer other products?

In the US, a bill seeking to revise the current Pharmaceutical Affairs Law to allow OTC vending machines is currently under final review by the Ministry of Government Legislation, before being submitted to the National Congress for approval.

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Of course machines selling OTCs such as condoms, feminine hygiene products and tights are already a common feature in pubs, restaurants, clubs and cinemas but there are many possibilities to extend the product range beyond these common items.

The amendments are expected to be passed without difficulty and will come into effect on 1st January 2017. They will allow pharmacists to sell OTCs through vending machines located outside their premises after conducting a consultation with consumers via video call through the machine.

Jacksonville are already one step ahead as Jacksonville Memorial Hospital recently started offering prescription medicines through an “Rx-to-go” kiosk in its emergency room. At the start of this month, three Jacksonville pharmacists also launched medical vending machines of their own which provide OTC medicines and personal hygiene products.

J&J Focuses On Consumer Innovation In Africa

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As part of its ongoing commitment to Africa, J&J has announced the launch of the Africa Innovation Challenge. The project will support Africa’s growing ecosystem and help develop consumer health solutions for local towns.

Earlier this year, J&J announced its global public health strategy in Cape Town, South Africa. The operations expand upon the company’s presence in Africa, which began in 1936.

“Our goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of families and communities around the world,” said Josh Ghaim, J&J’s Chief Technology Officer, Consumer R&D. “With its focus on consumer healthcare, the Africa Innovation Challenge will help to surface important issues impacting local communities. We look forward to engaging with the continent’s top entrepreneurs and scientists, and through collaboration, helping advance their ideas and bringing meaningful solutions across three very important healthcare areas.”

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The Africa Innovation Challenge seeks ideas focused on three critical health areas, promoting early child development and maternal health; empowering young women; and improving family wellbeing.

Challenge participants with successful solutions will receive up to US$100,000 in funding and mentorship from scientists, engineers and researchers in the J&J Consumer Research & Development organisation.

The news of J&J’s latest innovative challenge comes alongside the recent decision to drop ‘McNeil’ from their OTC business name, opting for J&J Consumer instead.

To apply to the challenge and review the applicable terms and conditions, please visit the Africa Innovation Challenge website. The deadline to submit applications is 17th January 2017.

OTC DASHBOARD is your sole Nicholas Hall & Company source of regular updates on the OTC market in Africa and the Middle East. Explore our Rest of World section for the latest content.

Esomeprazole, Ibuprofen OTC Changes Take Effect In Canada

In February this year, Health Canada announced its intention to make two changes to the Prescription Drug List (PDL). Specifically, it was proposed that the PDL be amended to allow an OTC version of esomeprazole for heartburn and to make technical changes that would permit modified-release ibuprofen products available for self-care.

While this announcement was not a surprise as the six-month period for comment elapsed on 5th August, the delay in making the change effective (18th August) was more likely owing to administrative matters than anything therapeutic in nature. The two changes to the federal list are as follows:

  • Esomeprazole or its salts except when sold for the 14-day treatment for frequent heartburn at a daily dose of 20mg
  • Ibuprofen or its salts except:
    1. An oral dosage form that provides 400mg or less per dosage unit; or
    2. A modified-release oral dosage form that provides 600mg or less per dosage unit

While the Federal decision had no further restrictions attached, the provincial scheduling of these products do take on some further limitations as decided by the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).

Now that the federal switches are finalised, the interim decision made by NAPRA becomes effective. Specifically, the provincial decision on these two items were:

  • Ibuprofen or its salts, when sold in a modified-release oral dosage form that provides 600mg or less per dosage unit would be placed into Schedule III (sold only where a pharmacist is present)
  • Esomeprazole or its salts, when sold for the 14-day treatment for frequent heartburn at a daily dose of 20mg, in package sizes of no more than esomeprazole 280mg would be assigned to Schedule II (available only from a pharmacist directly)
  • Esomeprazole or its salts, EXCEPT when sold for the 14-day treatment for frequent heartburn at a daily dose of 20mg in package sizes of no more than esomeprazole 280mg will not be switched provincially (it will remain in Schedule I – Rx only)

The ibuprofen decision was notable since the regular dosage form is available as an unscheduled item (available through any outlet when sold in package sizes of up to 18,000mg) while the modified release product is restricted. The esomeprazole decision matched the decision made for omeprazole in 2014.

Changing pharmacy for changing Germany

Germany is ageing, and fast – the UN puts the current average age at 46, second only to Japan, with the number of people over 60 set to reach 39% of the population by 2050. As younger Germans increasingly leave for the big cities, many small countryside towns are becoming depopulated, making it both hard for independent pharmacies to stay open and then to find replacements for them.

The small German town of Hüffenhardt – population 2,000 – is one such case, but luckily DocMorris has come up with an innovative solution to the problem – the telepharmacy, set to be opened as a pilot project in summer 2016. In the space of the old pharmacy, Hüffenhardt residents will be able to access a video screen linking them with a live pharmacist, with whom they can hold individual private discussions on health complaints, receive advice and product recommendations. At the end of the consultation, consumers can then choose to buy an OTC, or to hand in a GP prescription for checking, with the medicines then dispensed via a terminal controlled by the pharmacist. OTCs and Rx products which are not immediately needed can be delivered via DocMorris’ standard mail order service, or picked up at the neighbouring town at the next visit.

Hüffenhardt mayor Walter Neff commented: “The closure of our pharmacy affected our elderly and less mobile residents, who had to walk several kilometres to the next town to pick up medicines. Thanks to digital advances, Hüffenhardt residents can get personal face-to-face advice and pick up the most important medicines directly in the town”.

A longer version of this article will appear in the March 2016 issue of Nicholas Hall’s OTC INSIGHT Europe, a monthly publication reporting on OTC trends & developments throughout the region. For details on how to subscribe, contact melissa.lee@NicholasHall.com.

 

OTCs in Action Episode 54: Japan’s First Food for Cognitive Function

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This week OTCs are in Action in Japan, where Otsuka has introduced Nature Made Ginkgo Biloba, Japan’s first Food with Function Claim for cognitive function. Research has shown that flavonoid glycosides and terpene lactones extracted from ginkgo biloba can improve perception and recall of perceived objects.

According to Otsuka: “Traditionally prized in Europe for its health benefits, ginkgo biloba has also been recognized as a health food in Japan for many years. A systematic review of research results for flavonoid glycosides and terpene lactones extracted from ginkgo biloba leaves led to notification and acceptance of this supplement as Japan’s first Food with Function Claim for cognitive function.” Nature Made Gingko Biloba is delivered in tablet form.

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The Food with Function regulatory classification was introduced in April 2015 and allows food supplements to be supported by nutrient claims, as long as scientific evidence has been provided to the Consumer Affairs Agency, reports the December issue of Nicholas Hall’s OTC INSIGHT Asia-Pacific. Unlike Foods for Specified Health Use, these products are not subject to case-by-case review by the agency.

Another recent innovation from Otsuka offers heart health benefits to Japanese consumers. In November, the company expanded claims for Nature Made Super Fish Oil in Japan with the specific health benefit of “inhibition of triglyceride levels in the blood”.

Editor’s Introduction to Cough, Cold & Allergy

Sneak peek at some highlights from Global OTC Cough, Cold & Allergy

With so much going on in the US allergy remedies category ­– from Allegra’s swift dash up the rankings to the switch of intranasal corticosteroid Nasacort, from new A+P campaigns to allergy extensions of blockbuster cough & cold brands Mucinex and Vicks – it is small wonder that it was the source of double-digit growth (+11%) in 2014. Not to mention 2015 developments like the February debut of Flonase and the planned launch of Rhinocort. Yet this was just one of a handful of strong performances around the globe in the past year, with the global CCA market responding positively to a spike in flu infections across several regions, switch activity, format innovation and other new launches.

A handful of highlights from around the globe include:

  • In Brazil the move to Rx status of vasoconstrictor-based nasal decongestants led to a significant downturn, but innovative launches subsequently revived topical decongestants sales
  • China’s cough and sore throat remedies benefited from A+P targeting smokers, both for treatment of respiratory conditions caused by smoking and for freshening breath
  • In France dereimbursement is gradually transforming CCA into a pure OTC market, with increasing numbers of semi-ethicals losing reimbursement and becoming pure OTCs – and so able to be advertised
  • CCA is Russia’s largest OTC category by a considerable margin, with over $400mn separating it from VMS (second largest category); CCA options are prominent on a proposed mass market list
  • In Turkey marketers are increasingly launching products classified as food supplements (particularly throat lozenges) and medical devices (notably saline topical decongestants) as these are less tightly controlled than registered medicines

For a comprehensive view of the Global OTC Cough, Cold & Allergy market, including in-depth coverage of the 15 leading CCA markets, check out our just-published report. For more information, download the brochure or contact Nino Hunter.

OTCs in Action Episode 31: Therapeutic Devices as Band-Aids and Beyond

OTCinActionheaderAlthough they prevent infection, Band-Aids with fun characters do not really make the pain go away – but little children think that is what happens. Tears, Band-Aid, then tremulous Smile is a gratifying cycle for parents. As we get older, we learn that it’s the capsule or cream that actually minimises the pain.

However, that paradigm is shifting — clinically proven therapeutic devices are OTCs in Action. A medical student at Aarhus University in Denmark has developed the tiny nasal filter, Rhinix, which prevents allergy symptoms when inserted in the nose. Earlier this month, study results for Rhinix were presented at the 2015 Annual Congress of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Although the trial was small, held over two days with 65 allergy sufferers, the filters made a significant reduction in blocked nose, runny nose, nasal itching, sneezing and itchy, swollen and watery eyes when compared to placebo, Nicholas Hall & Company’s OTC.NewDirections reported this week. 

Consumer demand for OTC allergy treatments is supported by sales data. The global market for OTC systemic and topical allergy treatments was valued at $7.7bn in 2014*, a 26% increase since 2010. This growth has been driven by the switch of successful Rx allergy brands to OTC status.

But Rx-to-OTC switch need not be the only way to deliver safe and cost-effective treatment to consumers. Perhaps it’s time to view the market with younger eyes as technology enables products that made us feel better as children, actually prevent and treat symptoms.

*Source: Nicholas Hall & Company’s DB6 Global OTC Database.

Homeopathy: The debate rumbles on…

The publication of Prince Charles’ “Black Spider” letters last month again brings up the much-debated question of homeopathy, with the Prince’s Trust having lobbied Tony Blair both to retain NHS funding in the UK, as well as minimize criticism of alternative medicines. While critical evidence accumulates against the efficacy of homeopathy, from the UK’s House of Commons study in 2010 to an independent report from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council in 2015, consumer support for the practice, even in countries with high levels of education and fast access to healthcare info, is as strong as ever.

Patient requests for homeopathic medicines on the NHS prevented Tony Blair’s government from cutting funding. In Germany, a 2014 study found 60% of Germans use homeopathics, a rise of 7% since 2009, with the vast majority of the 60 health funds offering OTC reimbursement doing so only for homeopathic and anthroposophic medicines. A recent study by the Dutch Office of Statistics revealed that homeopathy came second only to acupuncture as the favoured alternative medicine in the Netherlands, with women aged 30-65 with higher education the most frequent users. And this is before we touch on use in India, with its 100,000+ trained homeopaths…

Despite the recent efforts of regulatory authorities to make life hard for homeopathic manufacturers, in Germany (huge price rises for homeopathic registration), the Netherlands (no more indications on homeopathic packs) and the USA (see the FDA’s public hearing in April), the practice is unlikely to disappear any time soon. Nor should it. So long as marketers make no claims beyond soft indications, and HCPs ensure consumers return to them if symptoms have not cleared up, homeopathy can be a gentle and natural alternative to the often confusing world of medicated options. With the correct guidance, there’s enough space in OTC for everyone.

OTCs in Action Episode 28: DNA-based diets a beacon of future OTCs

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EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE OFFERED DNA-BASED DIETS

UK: Overweight patients in Essex are being offered the opportunity to receive DNA-based tailored diets and exercise regimes under a pilot scheme offered by the National Health Service. The “Extraordinary People” project, run by the NHS’ Enable East, is a free programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund. To date, 56 participants have completed DNA tests provided by DNAFit, which will give personalised reports on their key genes related to diet, nutrition, physical health and fitness. Based on the findings, participants will be allocated to one of 5 diet plans and tailored exercise regimes. If successful, the programme could be rolled out across the UK.

(from Nicholas Hall’s OTC.NEWSFLASH, May 23, 2015)

OTCs are in Action in the UK, where the NHS is attempting to validate DNA-based, individualised weight loss programmes. The connections between DNA make-up and body weight are becoming increasingly apparent as the human genome is unravelled. Earlier this year, US National Institutes of Health Director, Dr Francis Collins, blogged about a study of the genomes of more than half a million people to look for genes and regions of chromosomes that play a role in body fat distribution and obesity. They turned up over 140 genetic locations that contribute to these traits, and further analyses suggest the possibility that the programming behind how fat cells form may influence their distribution.

In fact, OTC tests for DNA weight loss programmes are available online as OTCs and were a hot topic in the media several years ago, but have not become mainstream. While a positive result of the NHS study will offer credibility for this OTC category, it’s still early stages. In an interesting twist, DNAFit subscribers can become members of 23andMe, the pioneer in OTC genetic testing, which made its first appearance in OTCs in Action Episode 22: Genetic disorders vs Alcoholic Blushes.

In theory, the personalised weight loss programmes of today could be successful, but OTC marketers know that the human / actual use factor in compliance can offset the best science. The significance is the future prospects – perhaps some day, prospective dieters will review a 23andMe report before choosing between weight loss OTCs such as orlistat-based Alli (GSK) or raspberry ketone dietary supplements.