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Evolution or revolution?

PMEA of the Night 2014

As a sector, consumer health has seen significant transactional activity in the last year, with mergers and acquisitions influencing market share. Coupled with the evolving role of community pharmacists in OTC healthcare and the rise of the empowered consumer, these changes lead us to pose the question: is OTC experiencing an evolution or a revolution? This was the theme of a recent top-level debate hosted in London by Merck’s Consumer Health business, and we have captured insights from that event in this supplement.

President of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Mr Ash Soni, provides his perspective on how pharmacists are often the first port of call for those concerned about their health and can provide advice and support in an accessible setting. He argues that, for the patient, this provides assurance and a trusted source of information and, for consumer health companies, pharmacists are a vital link with their customers.

Governments have also played a part in this process by encouraging the delivery of a broader range of healthcare services from community pharmacists. As explained by Jo Pisani, a Partner with PwC’s European Pharmaceuticals & Lifesciences practice, if patients can be encouraged to self-diagnose, self-treat and self-pay, it can lead to significant efficiency gains for healthcare economies.

Whether evolutionary or revolutionary, the changing role of consumer behaviour is influencing the OTC sector as well. With patients increasingly willing to navigate their own health journey, the demand for information and choice has never been so high. Any stakeholder from the broader healthcare sector will relay the truism that consumers are becoming more empowered. They are taking a greater interest in their own health and are more informed and educated than ever before.

However, as Dr Ian Banks, President of the European Men’s Health Forum, comments, many people do not or cannot access health services at all, and it is these hard-to-reach groups that are most in need of pharmacy and primary care services. Dr Banks argues that striking a balance between health awareness and creating unnecessary demand is one of the key challenges facing the sector.

Clearly, dialogue with consumers is becoming increasingly important in the OTC sector. It is our aim to generate dialogue within the industry, too; to understand the factors affecting the OTC sector and anticipate how these might influence it in the future.

I trust you will find this supplement as thought-provoking as the attendees did on the day.

Uta Kemmerich-Keil
President and CEO, Merck Consumer Health

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