The good news is that life expectancy in Taiwan has risen significantly to almost age 80, a trend that has accelerated since National Health Insurance was introduced in 1995, giving the country the rank of 38th in the world for life expectancy. However, the population of just over 23mn people has the second highest rate of people visiting doctors in the world. The cost of this level of care is quite high.
Switching drugs from Rx to OTC is one way the Taiwanese government plans to reduce costs and it is evaluating the switch of several Rx ingredients to OTC later this year. These medicines include non-sedating antihistamines, PPI antacids, low-dose aspirin for systemic cardiovascular indications and vaginal antifungals, among others.
Taiwanese officials have reported that, although consumers have high awareness of self-care, they lack knowledge of using OTCs, with only 34% saying they would purchase OTCs when they have a minor ailment. In addition to the very high rate of medical professional consultations, Taiwan’s restrictive advertising regulations for brand name products likely contribute to the problem.
On a more positive note, these Rx-to-OTC switches, in conjunction with an increasing number of consumer-oriented retail pharmacy chains, should encourage consumers to self-medicate when appropriate. Additionally, a medicine cost control programme, which caps health insurance coverage, is being tested by the health ministry. The prognosis for cost reduction with treatment by OTCs in Action is therefore very positive!
For more information about the OTC market in Taiwan and other Asian countries, please click on the link to access Nicholas Hall & Company’s OTC INSIGHT Asia-Pacific.