It is hard to believe that we’re already in June and halfway through 2017. This year has been eventful for various reasons, but a real positive for me is the increase in reclassification applications. After years of leading the way in reclassifying medicines, the number of successful switches in the UK has dipped over the past ten years, so I’m excited to see these new applications under consideration.
The reclassification of medicines from prescription only (POM) to pharmacy (P) or general sales list (GSL), where safe and appropriate to do so, can only be a positive thing. Over-the-counter availability offers people faster and easier access to effective medicines, reduces pressure and costs on GPs and the NHS and encourages more people to self care. PAGB supports companies that bring forward potential switches where there is a clear benefit and case for promoting self care.
A great example of the benefits of reclassification is Nexium Control (esomeprazole) – a proton pump inhibitor that was switched from POM to GSL status in the UK in 2015 with an extensive pharmacy training programme. As I’m sure you will have noticed, this product has really driven sales in the heartburn category, offering more choice to help the consumer find the right treatment for their symptoms.
MHRA has recently carried out consultations on three POM to P switches, sildenafil for erectile dysfunction, Dovonex Psoriosis Ointment (calcipotriol) and Maloff Protect (atovaquone/proguanil), an anti-malarial. These proposed switches are all for conditions that are suitable for self care, each demonstrates a good safety profile and PAGB supports their reclassification.
Increasing the number of P medicines presents a real opportunity for community pharmacy. They provide a clear reason for people to visit their local pharmacy and a way to open conversations about lifestyle choices and self-treatable conditions, reinforcing the message that the pharmacy can provide expert healthcare advice.
I believe pharmacists should do more to promote this service and ensure customers are more aware of the additional choice and range of products only available to buy from the pharmacy.
Discussing health concerns with customers is an integral part of the role of a pharmacist and one that people need to use more frequently. Indeed, if we’re going to successfully alleviate the pressure on NHS services then the UK needs to once again be at the forefront of reclassification to continue to drive self care through pharmacy.
John Smith is chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB)