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Lifting ad restrictions on medicines a bad idea: AMA


The AMA has condemned suggestions that restrictions on advertising for most schedule 3 pharmacist-only medicines be lifted.

The Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI), the peak body representing companies involved in the manufacture and distribution of non-prescription consumer health care products as well as advertising and public relations firms, has proposed that current rules barring the promotion of S3 medicines directly to consumers be scrapped, arguing it will improve health.

The organisation claimed that for every $1 spent on over-the-counter medicines in the United States, the country saved between $6 and $7 in health costs, and argued similar savings could be realised here.

“Supporting individuals to be more active and engaged in managing their own health is an important dimension to building a more sustainable healthcare system for the future,” ASMI Executive Director Deon Schoombie said. “Expanding self-care will be the key driver to promote this shift in behaviour.”

But AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton warned such a change could expose people unnecessarily to harm, and there were very good reasons for the restrictions currently in place.

“Not knowing what you don’t know is part of the problem,” Dr Hambleton told Medical Observer. “If you have a cold and buy Lemsip, and then have a headache and take Panadeine, you can have an overdose situation because people don’t realise that paracetomol is in both products.”

Citing the results of a study it commissioned, ASMI claimed that around 7 per cent of all GP consultations involved the treatment of minor ailments, and many patients could be diverted from such visits if they had an increased ability to self-medicate.

But Dr Hambleton said this was a dangerous route that could put people in danger.

“We do need a trained health professional to make sure that people are not getting important medicines mixed up, and pharmacists have an important role in interviewing people,” he said.

Adrian Rollins