Magazine article Drug Topics

Self-Medication: Trend to Be Reckoned with, Not Wrecked

Magazine article Drug Topics

Self-Medication: Trend to Be Reckoned with, Not Wrecked

Article excerpt

Self-medication could be this country's best weapon in the war on rising health-care costs, and the Nonprescription Drug Manufacturers Association has the numbers to prove it:

* Although OTCs represent 60% of the medicines people buy, they account for less than two cents of every health-care dollar.

* The average American spends less than a dollar a week for nonprescription drugs, and a typical OTC costs about $4 (A doctor visit averages $45 or more.)

* OTC drugs cut $10.5 billion in Rx costs, doctor visits, insurance costs, and so on, from the national health-care tab in 1987 and promise to save the country $34 billion by the end of this decade, according to Kline & Co. research.

Two movements, however, are threatening the industry's ability to continue delivering that kind of cost-effectiveness, a panel of NDMA staffers reported at the association's annual meeting last month in Naples, Fla. One is the introduction of bills at the state level to regulate OTCs; the other is the drive--spearheaded by NARD, the independent pharmacy organization--for a third class of drugs.

While NDMA members weren't saying much publicly about the call for a new layer of drugs sold only through pharmacists, behind the scenes they were worried that the recent support of consumer groups and the arrival of a new Administration might give new life to the initiative.

NDMA president James Cope said simply at the panel session, "One of the best ways to assure the lowest consumer prices on OTC medicines is to make sure all retail outlets continue to have the right to sell them and that consumers can price-shop freely among outlets of their choosing. To give one class of outlets the exclusive right to sell safe and effective health-care products simply doesn't jibe with the American marketplace." He went on to say that, thanks to recent research by NDA and others, Congress and the Food & Drug Administration can be reassured that consumers act responsibly when they self-medicate.

New requirements: As for state bills placing new requirements on labeling, packaging, and other OTC areas, Daniel O'Keefe Jr., NDMA senior v.p.-general counsel, pointed out that the industry has faced 78 such challenges in the past two years. Already in 1993, he said, 15 "Uniformity-breaking bills" have been introduced. They include a bill in New York to require special label warnings for the elderly and a bill in Texas calling for bittering agents in topical OTCs. …

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