Just as I offer Fridays as an opportunity to look back and digest what has happened during the week, I’ve decided to launch a new series, though abbreviated, that will be posted on Mondays. Entitled "Healthcare Communications and the Next Ten Years" the idea is to pick an area of communications and look at how developments that are happening in the marketplace today may impact communications and the market in the future.
Given we are just off a week where a major and long awaited announcement on the RX to OTC switch of Plan B was announced, this seems like a good opportunity to begin the series to discuss RX to OTC switches.
Emblematic of that switch is the fact that drugs that may be candidates are necessarily more sophisticated drugs that are not just something to pop for a stuffy nose or headache. Those drugs that are in the pipeline today and that are aging and therefore likely to be considered for OTC switches are more serious medicines.
This is borne out by the fact that if you look at RX to OTC switch failures over the past few years, one sees such drugs as acyclovir for the treatment of genital herpes and statins for the treatment of high blood pressure. Both of these failures represent significant communications challenges.
The criteria for an RX to OTC switch include the fact that the consumer is able to understand a label and treat oneself without the benefit of a learned intermediary. Yet both of these drugs failed for that reason – acyclovir because it was found in actual use studies that many patients could not properly self-diagnose their condition and in case of statins because one could not monitor one’s cholesterol levels at home, therefore leaving the consumer reliant on a physician to test blood to determine whether the medication was having the desired effect.
In order to go OTC, sponsors of drugs such as these will either have to devise communications means that are much more intensive than labels to ensure proper patient understanding, and will have to have more elaborate support for OTC candidate drugs.
That brings us to an upcoming meeting of the Non-prescription Drugs Advisory Committee to be held September 25. The entire two-day agenda is built around considering issues related to the analysis and interpretation of consumer behavior studies conducted to support marketing of nonprescription drug products. Surely those studies have presented sponsors with high hurdles in the switch cycle. The development of better, more creative communications techniques and even vehicles will be key to seeing a continued flow of good and useful products from RX to OTC.