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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : October 2006
complement complementary medicine Jonathan Breach, MSc, Grad Dip Her Med, Grad Cert Drug Dev Regulatory Manager (Complementary and OTC Medicines), Australian Self-Medication Industry firstname.lastname@example.org The consumer and commercial reality for complementary medicine T HE recent Australian Self-Medica- tion Industry (ASMI) annual confer- ence held in Sydney took on a theme of Self-care—the consumer and commer- cial reality, highlighting the fact that health and wellbeing platforms are, at best, hypothetical if they are not grounded in consumer acceptance and commercial viability for industry and healthcare providers. Several speakers highlighted the role of complementary medicines as part of a consumer-focused self-care strategy. Pro- fessor Charlie Xue of the Royal Mel- bourne Institute of Technology reaf- firmed the statistical trends on complementary medicine use in Aus- tralia. He said that lower-cost extracts with therapeutic benefit can be developed through high quality research, particu- larly in National Health Priority areas such as type 2 diabetes. Overcoming prejudice But, as Professor Stephen Myers of South- ern Cross University pointed out during his presentation, to improve the momen- tum of research over current levels found in Australia would require sections of industry, academia, government and the health professions to overcome their own pride and prejudice over the use of com- plementary medicines. The well-worn clichés of there being insufficient evidence for complementary ...opportunities emerge for brands that build and invest in an identity within pharmacy... He spoke of his recent studies which highlighted that 68.9 per cent of con- sumers surveyed nationwide used at least of 17 complementary therapies, with 44.2 per cent of the population having con- sulted a complementary practitioner in a 12-month period. The most popular therapy used were clinical nutrition interventions (including vitamins and minerals), with Western herbal medicine being the next most pop- ular ingestible therapy. Of significance was that, in both studies, more than 70 per cent of these consumers used these thera- pies in a self-care context. Professor Basil Roufolgalis from the University of Sydney demonstrated that there is a pipeline of innovative comple- mentary medicines to be investigated, and that a company need not invest in research and development for the pur- poses isolating single chemical entities as a ‘pharmaceutical’. medicines is at odds with the volume of evidence now published in peer-reviewed scientific studies and reviews. With patient-directed evidence sum- maries being increasingly available on the Internet for consumers, healthcare providers who ignore this evidence may be placed on collision course with highly educated patients who have made informed choices over their preferred methods of self-care. Opinion can, and does, however, change. Michael Goodhew, senior brand manager from Symbion Consumer Healthcare provided a case study about the rapid and ongoing rise in popularity of glucosamine for osteoarthritis. In par- ticular, the shift among pharmacists and GPs from being skeptics, to reluctant con- verts and, finally, to enthusiasts was noted. A contributing factor to this is that glu- cosamine is a complementary medicine whose popularity can be directly attrib- 62 ? THE AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF PHARMACY VOL.87 OCTOBER 2006 uted to the noticeable benefits. Unlike a multivitamin, which may provide a more intangible benefit in terms of future pre- vention of serious disease, the effects of glucosamine are more immediate and qualified by the consumer. There is no doubt that this attribute, reinforced by quality clinical studies, can positively influence the opinions of health professionals and such an attribute would be valued by other new complementary medicines seeking to replicate glu- cosamine’s success. But we must be careful not to think that the success of a brand of complementary medicine is independent of other con- sumer considerations. When self-care is examined as a fully integrated consumer behaviour, the notions of clear differenti- ation in types of goods, whether they be pharmaceutical, complementary, food or cosmetic, begin to fade. The power of brands Julie Porter, strategic planning director of Clemenger BBDO, highlighted in her pre- sentation the success of the Dove brand in creating such an emotional connection with consumers; that they are not just seen as a range of cosmetic products. The brand succeeded in validating the feelings of consumers, how they manage their lives and that they belong to a ‘commu- nity’ who share similar values. By emphasising ‘natural beauty’ as something inherent in all women of all ages and body types, by supporting foun- dations linked to women’s health issues such as breast cancer and eating disor- ders, the fact that Dove products are cos- metics becomes secondary to the value set that the products are made to represent. Following this theme, speaker Gawan Rudder of the Advertising Federation of Australia, highlighted the limits of con- sumer mind-space, particularly when