This issue contains a further paper examining the economic benefits of self-care – this time from consumer surveys conducted in Canada1 – to add to several previously published in SelfCare2,3. This study again highlights the cost of ‘lost’ opportunities to self-care, when people choose to consult a doctor for apparently minor ailments. Of course visits to doctors in such circumstances may serve a useful purpose, particularly if the doctor takes the opportunity to educate the patient on the self-care options that are available when minor ailments recur. The evidence suggests that this may boost people’s confidence to self-care, and ultimately lead to reduced doctor-dependency3. However the willingness of doctors to recommend self-care cannot be taken for granted. In the UK, approved new OTC switches are seldom supported by organizations representing General Practitioners during pre-approval consultations4. Engaging primary care physicians to recognize the benefits of recommending self-care to those consulting them is important if the economic benefits of new additions to self-medication are to be realized. This may be a fruitful area for future international research into best practice.
Also in this issue we learn that pharmacists in California strongly favor the inclusion of warnings in print advertising for OTC products5. Just over 50% feel that adding such warnings would help consumers to self-select medicines, 35% being less confident. The great majority agreed with the suggestion that there should be print warnings for OTC medicines regardless of the type of adverse event profile under consideration. Perhaps surprisingly, almost equal proportions would include warnings for ‘rare and serious side effects at recommended doses’ and ‘common and mild side effects at recommended doses’ in advertisements. The authors went on to test reactions to specific warnings which would mostly fall in the first category and received strong support for all such examples.
As the group of healthcare professionals at the forefront of counseling consumers on OTC medicines, the views of pharmacists on this issue are clearly important. It is, perhaps, not surprising that cautious healthcare professionals would favor more, rather than less, safety information in advertising of any medicine. However, as noted in the article, additional research showing that such warnings would have utility above and beyond the existing provision of information to consumers would be important in considering broader policy implications. The challenge of how best to inform consumers on the benefits and risks of OTC medicines is not unique to one country. We encourage readers to share evidence, views and experience from other countries to inform further debate on this potentially controversial subject.
- Willemsen KR, Harrington G. From Patient to Resource: The Role of Self-Care in Patient-Centered Care of Minor Ailments. SelfCare 2012;3(3):43-55.
- Tisman A. The Economic Burden of Minor Ailments. SelfCare 2010;1(3):105-116
- Banks I. Self Care of Minor Ailments: A Survey of Consumer and Healthcare Professional Beliefs and Behaviour. SelfCare 2010;1(1):1-13
- Accessed May 2012
- Soller RW, Mulvaney M, Rice L, Negerete MJ. Warnings in Nonprescription Drug Print Advertisements. SelfCare 2012;3(3):56-66