OTC hearing aids: Awaiting US Senate vote

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Cheaply priced reading glasses have long been available to buy without prescription in supermarkets and pharmacies. While there is an available OTC product for some living with farsightedness, there is still yet to be an approved inexpensive over-the-counter equivalent for those living with mild-to-moderate hearing loss.

Medicare and most private insurance plans in the US do not cover prescription hearing aids, which cost around $2,400 for one device. Owing to this, it is thought that many people with hearing loss go without hearing aids because they cannot afford the devices.

This could be changing soon, as the House of Representatives has passed legislation that would create a new class of hearing aids that could be sold OTC.

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“We get inquiries every day from people who cannot afford hearing aids,” said Nancy Macklin, a spokeswoman for the Hearing Loss Association of America. According to a 2016 study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering & Medicine, just 14% of those with hearing loss use a hearing aid.

While there are several types of less expensive non-prescription personal sound amplification devices on the market, the devices are not regulated by any government entity for safety or quality standards and are used to aid people with normal hearing but wish to amplify sound.

Recent advances in technology have made the concept of less-expensive, OTC hearing aids very possible. The potential switch is part of the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, which the House passed Wednesday with a voice vote. The bill received widespread bipartisan support, but the Senate has yet to announce a timeline for holding a vote on the bill.

The arrival of OTC hearing aids can’t come soon enough for an ageing population that is continually growing. As Baby Boomers age and Generation X hits middle age, the number of people with mild to moderate hearing loss is increasing rapidly.

NHC North America Conference: Day 2

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Here’s the second and final blog review of our recent regional North American OTC Conference, which took place last week at The Westin Governor Morris hotel in Morristown, New Jersey.

Our first speaker on Day 2, Bernie Simone, Head of Rx-to-OTC Switches NA, Sanofi, discussed the growth engine for consumer healthcare and improved consumer self-care relating to Rx-to-OTC Switch, and highlighted how 43% of OTC industry sales are associated with a Switch, with almost half of proposed Switches failing. Bernie also explained the concern that Switch will no longer be possible if the medical community does not approve, and so it is imperative that we as an industry think of new initiatives to involve communities in the earlier stages of the Switch process in order to identify viable and novel Switch candidates.

Following Bernie on stage was Chuck Jolly from Baker Donelsen, who reviewed legal risk amelioration strategies that can be adopted by marketers to safeguard their practices, leading us into our first networking hour of the day.

Vidhu Dev, VP, Rx-to-OTC Switch & R&D, GSK, then gave us an informative outlook on Switch overseas and the likely future challenges and successes, before focusing back on the local US market – for example, the US OTC allergy market has continued Switch activity, is highly competitive and dominant. Vidhu also identified possible categories for OTC switch candidates, such as antifungals, anti-diabetics and cough & cold, and the evolving role of the pharmacist will be integral in making this possible.

Our panel then took to the stage, debating the establishment of collaborative relationships with payer, retail and CPG entities to put the consumer first and deliver superior outcomes.

Shannon Huneke of UHC, Colleen Lindholz of Kroger & Chris Jobes of J&J came together to discuss their collaboration in the healthcare ecosystem. Together they discussed their marriage of information on consumer insight and their segmentation of this, and how this equips them in the battle against industry challenges, and transforms the behavioural science behind consumer healthcare. The panel also mapped the patient’s journey through their condition, with each journey presenting an opportunity to translate individual patient requirements. They concluded by asserting that we can’t get where we want to be in healthcare without partnerships – and if we can create a healthier population, we all win!

Our unplugged panel session continued as Christina Speck, Head of Brand Partnerships & Sponsorships, Aetna, and Brian Doherty, Executive VP, Managing Director, Ogilvy CommonHealth, joined forces to discuss partnerships, technology and engaging healthcare consumers in the real world. Together Christina and Brian discussed consumers living in a digital age, with Christina mainly focusing on Aetna’s partnership with Apple products and apps. Christina highlighted how healthcare and well-care are not exactly fun (but they should be!), which is where the combination of technology creates a vision for this, connecting clinical and well-care, and demystifying healthcare communications.

Our panel discussions certainly gave some food for thought in time for lunch, with many delegates taking the time to discuss and debate the key learnings with industry peers. Returning from lunch, we saw Walmart executives Alex Hurd, Senior Director of Health & Wellness Transformation, and Jamie Grace, Senior Director & Merchandise Manager, explore the role of retail in providing access to high quality care at lower costs.

John Delfs from The Foundation for Health Smart Consumers shared with the audience the need to empower consumers through motivation and collaboration with HCPs, and was followed by Randy Vogenberg from the National Institute of Collaborative Healthcare, who gave us an insight into access trends for OTCs, delving into innovation, incubation and implementation.

Mary Alice Lawless, from our conference partners, EverythingHEALTH, then took to the stage to identify and analyse new strategies for unlocking the next generation of Rx-to-OTC Switch, before an esteemed panel of moderators debated the next steps in consumer healthcare transformation. Panellists included Joseph McGovern of EverythingHEALTH, Andrea Leondard-Segal, former FDA Director of the Division of Nonprescription Clinical Evaluation, Helmut Albrecht, President of H2A-Associates, and Dennis Tze, Biograph Inc. Together they asked whether we should provide case studies for the Switch industry, questioning how we can enhance changes in Switch through branding and digital.

Overall our first North American conference was a real success, with a fantastic turn out, excellent insights, a riveting display of speakers and plenty of industry knowledge. We certainly hope to see you next year and thank you all for joining us in this first time North American conference experience!

NHC North America Conference: Day 1

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Here we bring you a review of our first regional North American OTC Conference, which took place last week in Morristown, New Jersey, America’s central business hub for consumer healthcare.

Nicholas Hall opened proceedings with his Keynote address and annual report, reviewing recent successes in the US market, and noting a particularly successful cough and cold season. He also delved into the seven market drivers leading the current growth in OTC, the most popular being consumption by women and the ageing population.

This was followed by a gloves-off panel discussion, hosted by Mike Tarino, Principal of Tiltas Solutions. Mike was joined by Sandra Morris, former Senior Benefits Manager at Procter & Gamble, Mike Thompson, President & CEO at National Alliance of Healthcare and Dennis Marco, Managing Partner of Hamilton Public Affairs. The panel discussed and challenged what the administration of Trump meant for consumer healthcare and OTCs. Tarino highlighted drastic changes impacting US healthcare, with the costs for a family of four seeing a near US$20,000 increase in the past 16 years.

Ed Rowland provided an update on Boots UK and implications for the Walgreens Boots Alliance in the US, exploring the differences in UK and US marketing. Scott Emerson, Founder & CEO of the Emerson Group, shortly followed with a presentation on Innovation and how it isn’t quite what you think! Scott asserted that we need to think about what it is consumers are looking for in their products. Brands need to question their white space and ask ‘is it truly white space?’ when it comes to being innovative in branding. Scott also stressed that we must not be afraid to be patient when it comes to launching new products.

Finally, seeing us into our lunch hour, Geoff Betrus, Senior Director Shopper Solutions and Lynn Hall, Senior Director of Health and Wellness Solutions, both of J&J, explored consumer healthcare and retail partnerships, and how these can be integrated to deliver new consumer solutions. Geoff explored the current diabetes epidemic, emphasising the importance of Diabetes wellcare and how education for diabetic patients / carers is vital in understanding how to live with the disease. Lynn addressed the need for marketers to help people change their behaviour and attitudes towards their well being, and how this is something that can be achieved through motivation enhancement – that is to say by enhancing our abilities and creating opportunities.

After an informative morning, our delegates once again congregated for an afternoon of presentations focusing on reaching new heights in consumer healthcare. The afternoon session began with Monica Wood, VP Global Consumer Healthcare and Member Insights for Herbalife Nutrition, detailing key learnings for OTC companies in benchmarking the direct selling industry to generate sales. Monica was swiftly followed by Tine Hansen-Turton, who discussed the value proposition of convenient care and how retail-based healthcare clinics can build a culture of consumer-driven healthcare.

After a brief networking break and injection of caffeine, Thierry Garrier, Director of Marketing, Dietary Supplements NA at DSM, presented some of the new technological advances in consumer healthcare, such as bone density scanners, blood cholesterol testing and lutein vision health, an area of tremendous growth. Thierry also showed us Vitascan, a finger prick blood test which gives results in ten minutes on a smart phone! Certainly food for thought in an industry constantly searching for the latest unique selling point!

Our closing presentation from Patrick Spear, President & CEO for trade association Global Market Development Centre, analysed how health & wellness can be packaged as a retail strategy, allowing marketers to meet consumer expectations. Patrick discussed the difference between the ‘consumer’ and the ‘shopper’, emphasising that the consumer holds the ambition but the shopper holds the reality of the purchase. Patrick also analysed some of the ‘disruptive innovations’ in the OTC industry; products such as wearables, which 70% of millennials now own. Patrick insisted that we must navigate towards health & awareness in the industry, enhancing transparency by connecting, collaborating, creating and using commerce.

#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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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.

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.

Trump To Roll Back E-cig Rules?

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As vaping has escalated in popularity over the past year, tobacco companies are focusing on new smoking products, which are potentially less harmful. With Trump now in his full role of presidency, the industry sees an opening for rolling back rules on these products.

In November, Trump’s surprise election victory, and his pledges to reduce federal regulations on business, led tobacco lobby groups to create a new plan of action. The immediate objective is to delay the implementation of new regulations on the current generation of e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. These devices produce a vapour from liquid nicotine rather than burning tobacco.

Longer-term, they are setting their sights on repealing the 2016 law that treats these devices like cigarettes. Lobbyists have described a wary optimism as they approach lawmakers with their plans for products that they say can help traditional smokers quit and avoid the well-known health threats caused by tobacco.

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With US sales of conventional cigarettes decreasing, Big Tobacco has made a major gamble in the past few years, flying the flag for the e-cigarette industry. Last week, British American Tobacco Plc announced a US$49bn deal to take over competitor Reynolds American, uniting two of the largest e-cigarette players in the United States and United Kingdom and becoming a huge rival to Philip Morris International and US partner Altria Group.

“Suddenly things that were not conceivable became something we thought we could do,” said Cynthia Cabrera, former president and executive director for the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association (SFATA).

While the potential health risks and benefits of e-cigarettes are still being studied and debated, with regulators in different countries interpreting the evidence in different ways, some industry voices are saying that a change in US regulations could hurt the smaller companies there and cripple development and innovation in the country’s e-cigarette industry.