Fix literacy, encourage ‘switch’, says ASMI


ASMI has called on the Federal Government to prioritise improving Australian’s health literacy and their access to self care

In its pre-Budget submission, the Australian Self Medication Industry has highlighted that health literacy is nowhere near as good as it could be, and urged the Government to do something about it.

It cited the most recent major study into health literacy – conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2006 – which showed that on average only about 40% of Australians had adequate health literacy.

“In an age where our access to technology, information and health advice is unprecedented, ASMI believes that this is simply unacceptable,” says ASMI.

“Greater health literacy leads to greater Self Care, which in turn enhances the health and wellbeing of an individual.

“Having adequate health literacy means that an individual is able to seek help when they require, identify ailments that they can self-treat, read medicine labels, understand medicine advertisements and more.

“The intersection with the non-prescription medicines industry is undeniable and informs the way in which industry engages with consumers and is regulated by government.”

ASMI also cited more recent Queensland Health data, which showed 32% of emergency department presentations between 1 January 2018 and 30 June 2018 were for ailments that could have been solved at a community pharmacy or at the GP.

“The Productivity Commission also found that nationally, 2.9 million presentations to public hospital emergency departments in 2017-18 were avoidable and were for conditions that could have been managed by a GP, or in our opinion, in some cases, a pharmacist,” it says.

“This demonstrates that unfortunately there is an element of our community that may not have the skill, ability or means to make appropriate choices and decisions about their health and wellbeing. Central to decision-making when it comes to individual health is health literacy.”

ASMI recommends that the Government conduct a survey of adult literacy and life skills in 2020, and also set key targets for health literacy.

Australia needs “bold leadership” on the subject, it says.

It urges the Government to make health literacy a national priority, including by establishing a cross-portfolio taskforce for health literacy, and putting the issue on the COAG agenda.

It also calls for the funding of Local Health Literacy Grants to empower councils, communities and not-for-profits to run local programs designed to improve the health literacy of Australians.

ASMI also recommends the establishment of a Self Care Research Fund, saying the evidence base for self care in Australia needs to grow – independently of industry, which is currently funding most of the research into the issue.

It wants $500,000 made available over three years to look into Self Care.

It called on the Government to prioritise early intervention and preventive health funding.

ASMI also recommended increasing access to medicines, which it says empowers consumers to make their own choices when it comes to their own Self Care, via its “switch” agenda of downscheduling S4 medicines to S3.

“A successful ‘switch’ agenda should empower consumers, encourage industry to submit applications and foster innovation in over-the-counter medicines,” it says.

It called for the provision of “appropriate” data protection and IP measures for “switch” applications.

“Currently, if a sponsor invests in additional clinical research (which can cost up to $20 million) as part of their ‘switch’ application, the research outcomes will be made public and can be used by competitors, which acts as a major disincentive for companies to pursue a ‘switch’ application.

“ASMI recommends government review the United States’ experience in thisarea. The Hatch/Waxman Act establishes a period of five years of data exclusivity for new chemical entities and additional three year periods for new claims on existing products where new clinical data was essential for the approval of the application.

“This has been a major driver of the prescription to OTC switch process in the United States.”

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