Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist December 2013 Contents 16 Australian Pharmacist December 2013 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
BE OUR GUEST
A self care alliance
By Dr Deon Schoombie, Executive Director, Australian Self Medication
No matter where we work in the healthcare space, we all grapple with the
issue of rising healthcare costs and the long-term sustainability of the
As the peak industry body for
the over-the-counter (OTC) and
complementary medicines sector, the
Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI)
has turned its mind to how it can work
with other partners in the healthcare
arena to examine what contributions we
can make towards creating a healthcare
system that will meet the challenges that
This would include making better use of
healthcare resources by expanding the
role of pharmacists in primary healthcare
delivery and supporting consumers to
practice responsible self-care.
Self-care does not imply that individuals
are left to look after themselves.
Rather, the emphasis is on the consumer in
partnership with healthcare professionals
-- GPs, pharmacists, dieticians, naturopaths
Self-care is aimed at empowering
consumers through improved health
literacy to take greater personal interest
and responsibility for maintaining
health, preventing disease and
ASMI and the Pharmacy Guild have
developed a proposal to establish an
Australian Self Care Alliance that would
bring together a range of voices and
expertise in healthcare to consider relevant
issues that need addressing as we enter a
new health policy environment.
The aim would be to provide an
authoritative source of information on
all aspects of self-care. As to who would
comprise such an alliance, initial focus has
centred on consumer and patient groups,
pharmacists, GPs, health researchers,
the medicines industry, private health
insurers and government.
The proposed alliance would work
collaboratively and harness expert opinion
to address some of the critical issues
that impact primary healthcare, as well
as promote policies that support health
literacy and greater self-care.
We have been encouraged by the initial
response to the concept of an alliance
and we are now working together to gain
the support of other stakeholders who
are also enthusiastic about progressing
self-care. We are hopeful that a core group
might soon be formed to consider a
Any reform of healthcare must
include measures that would ensure
the most efficient use of healthcare
resources, including better use of
Australia's community pharmacy network
represents a trusted source of healthcare
advice and information. It has the potential
to play a much larger role in primary
healthcare delivery by becoming the
first port of call for a range of conditions.
Pharmacists, like GPs, have a key role in
supporting consumers to practice self-care
responsibly and safely.
Indeed, pharmacy's place in the health
system is also a key factor in another
initiative that ASMI has been developing
-- an alternative regulatory model for
advertising Pharmacist Only Medicines.
ASMI believes the restrictions on the
advertising of Pharmacist Only Medicines
disempower consumers because 'they
are not allowed to know'. This results
in a perverse outcome -- consumers
who are unaware of medicines that are
available without prescription continue to
consult GPs for conditions which could be
appropriately managed by pharmacists.
There is considerable support within the
pharmacy profession for the alternative
regulatory model proposed by ASMI.
The model will permit information about
Pharmacist Only Medicines to be provided
in a structured and balanced way.
Under the new model, the default
regulatory position would permit direct
to consumer communication about these
medicines. However, it makes provision
for exceptions on a case-by-case basis
where it can be demonstrated that direct to
consumer communications would not be in
the public interest.
The primary aim is to create consumer
awareness of therapeutic options in
Schedule 3 and to encourage consumers to
seek counselling by a pharmacist.
The structured communication format has a
strong educational emphasis and contains
three components. The first is information
about the condition and/or the symptoms
for which the medicine is indicated.
The second element emphasises the
requirement for mandatory intervention
by a pharmacist, thus reinforcing the
professional role of the pharmacist and the
need for counselling to determine whether
the product is appropriate for a particular
condition and/or consumer.
Branded information about the medicine
is the third and critical element to
ensure the viability of the model from an
ASMI believes that the proposed model will
help to create better informed consumers
who will be encouraged to seek counselling
by their pharmacists on symptoms or
conditions and treatment options. These
consultations may have different outcomes
-- supply of the advertised product, or, if not
appropriate, an alternative product could
be recommended and in other instances a
referral to a GP could occur.
ASMI believes this model will deliver
benefits for consumers, pharmacists
and industry. We are working with the
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the
Pharmacy Guild to gain broader support for
reforms in this area.
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