General Pharmaceuticals / Health & Healthcare

How can we ensure quality, safety and efficacy in self-care?

Deon Schoombie, Executive Director of the Australian Self Medication Industry

Deon Schoombie, Executive Director of the Australian Self Medication Industry

Self-care has evolved tremendously in the past four decades. With the advent of the Internet, diverse sources of health advice and information are now just a few clicks away. Quality, safety and efficacy should be the core emphasis for self-care, so that individuals can reliably choose self-care products and services to look after their health and wellbeing.

Deon Schoombie, Executive Director of the Australian Self Medication Industry joined us recently to share his view on self-care in the changing public healthcare landscape. He will be speaking at the upcoming the Future of Medicare Conference, taking place on 13th and 14th August in Sydney.

What are some of the main challenges of balancing self-care and public healthcare? How can we overcome these challenges?

Deon: We believe that the idea of self care warrants serious policy attention because we know that the healthcare system is not sustainable in its present state, and there is increasing focus on what individuals can do to better look after their health and wellbeing.

Some of the issues that will require attention include the scope of self care – identifying those who can benefit and who are in a position to be more pro-active in looking after their health.

We know, for instance, that a significant number of visits to GPs are for relatively minor ailments such as coughs and colds. There may be better ways to treat these patients, perhaps through community pharmacists, and a more effective way of utilising our healthcare resources more generally.

We should also be looking at where we can improve health literacy so that consumers have the best information about their health and ways to avoid chronic disease and avoid preventable illness.

I think we are at a point where we need to engage in a conversation about the role of self care and, within that, look at where we can get the best results and help people to lead more productive and healthy lives.

ASMI was established in 1974. How has the landscape of self-care evolved in the last four decades? 

Deon: A lot has changed since the establishment in 1974 of the first over-the-counter (OTC) medicines industry peak body, which was the forerunner to ASMI.  The industry itself has grown and evolved into today’s $4 billion OTC and complementary medicines sector.

ASMI has always played a key part in medicines policy, including in the establishment in 1999 of the National Medicines Policy, with one of its four core principles being the Quality Use of Medicines.

An emphasis on quality, safety and efficacy have always been at the core of ASMI’s mission, backed up by an evidence-based approach, and a Code of Practice that sets ethical standards for the advertising and promotion of consumer healthcare products.

Major changes have included the advent of the Internet, and the challenge posed by consumers with access to diverse sources of health advice and information.

Also, we’ve seen the advent of a more empowered consumer and a shift, from illness to ‘wellness’ and prevention. Together with the uptake of complementary medicines, this has been the catalyst for new investment and innovation, as well as for a regulatory structure catering to a whole new category of medicines.

What role does ASMI play in contributing towards better health through responsible self-care? 

Deon: ASMI will continue to pursue regulatory and policy changes on behalf its members with the aim of achieving a credible, evidence-based self care sector that delivers safe, cost-effective health solutions.

High on the list is ensuring Australians get access to the latest and most effective medicines through appropriate medicines scheduling.

Plans for the harmonisation of the therapeutic goods markets in Australia and New Zealand have been on the radar for some time and ASMI will continue to pursue this worthwhile goal.

ASMI has pressed for better protection of the IP of innovator companies, in order to encourage ongoing investment in research and innovation.

We are continuing, with other stakeholders, to establish a Self Care Alliance that can help to build the evidence base around self care, and in doing so, improve health literacy and identify opportunities for more cost-effective healthcare delivery.

You will be speaking at the Future of Medicare conference on the topic “Self-care in a changing public healthcare landscape”. What is the key message that you’d like to share with the conference audience? Is there anything else you’re looking forward to at the event? 

Deon: Essentially, we are going through a landmark moment, both in healthcare and for Medicare. We have reached a point where some difficult options are being placed on the table.

We think that a better way is to look at the place of self care. This entails people taking greater responsibility for their own health, with support from healthcare professionals, through better lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, and managing chronic conditions and everyday minor ailments.

It has become an integral part of the health system in the UK and it could play a valuable part here.

I am looking forward to the conference – there are some very impressive speakers and I’m sure that we will get a robust and positive discussion.

We all come to this with the simple objective of achieving the best, most affordable healthcare system. I’m sure we will all learn a great deal and, hopefully, be able to reach some sensible outcomes that will make it a memorable day.

Joining Deon at the Future of Medicare conference this August is the Honourable Catherine King, MP, Shadow Minister for Health and key industry professionals from organisations such as, Cormorant Policy Advice, Bupa, Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment and more. For more information about the conference agenda and to register, please visit the Future of Medicare conference website.

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