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Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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A Resized Pharmacy Image cbAugust 29 2017

Which? has published an article questioning the effectiveness of some over the counter medicines, and advising its readers to consider cheaper alternatives to branded items.

Appearing in the September issue, the article “names the widely available medicines and supplements that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.” It covers 10 brands including cold and flu remedies, analgesics, oral care, ear drops and vitamin and mineral supplements.

It argues that it is not always possible to decide whether OTC products are worth the money, and that there are often “far cheaper alternatives that work just as well.” It also calls on manufacturers to be more open in publishing efficacy evidence. “In the meantime, be sure to ask the pharmacist any questions about the products, and check the key active ingredients to see if you can find a cheaper alternative,” it tells its readers.

Responding to the article, the branded OTC manufacturers’s trade body, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, said the wide range of branded and generic OTC medicines, ensures people have a choice to suits their needs and their budget.

John Smith, PAGB Chief Executive, commented: “Branded OTC medicines enjoy a long-standing heritage of trust and manufacturers invest heavily in research and product development. In order for a medicine to be granted a licence, manufacturers must provide robust evidence to show it is effective before it can be sold in pharmacies and other retail stores.

“The manufacturers behind the well-known brands are often first to bring medicines to market with benefits such as a faster onset of action, prolonged duration or products that were previously only available on prescription. As Which? points out, some OTC products are marketed to target specific symptoms, this is because having these displayed on the front of the pack helps people choose a suitable product more easily, particularly in a shop where there isn’t a pharmacist to ask.

“Unlike new prescription drugs, which enjoy lengthy patent protection, it is exceedingly rare for new OTC medicines to have any form of protection once launched. Other companies are then free to produce and sell copies or generics at a lower price, because they don’t have to carry out the research and development. It is for these reasons of commercial confidentiality that detailed data on product efficacy is only shared with regulators.

“We support the Which? recommendation to always read the label and if people are still unsure, they should consult a pharmacist. Pharmacists are expert healthcare professionals who can provide information and support to help you to self care.”

Links:
Which?                                 
PAGB comment                  

 

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