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Future of medicines reclassification is exciting, PAGB event hears


Future of medicines reclassification is exciting, PAGB event hears

Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's chief executive June Raine.

The Proprietary Association of Great Britain today brought together healthcare industry stakeholders for an event in central London to celebrate 40 years of medicines reclassification and hear more about a collaboration between major organisations that will make more switches possible in years to come to give patients better access to treatments.

Pharmaceutical companies, industry regulators and pharmacy organisations gathered to hear about four decades of reclassification, beginning in 1983 when ibuprofen became one of the first switches when it was made available over-the-counter, as well as an exciting future for further reclassifications.

The PAGB said the newly-formed Reclassification Alliance “will drive collaboration” between its member companies, pharmacy bodies, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the Department of Health and Social Care WHO will work together to identify medicines that could be reclassified from POM to P as well as look at medicines that might be reclassified as GSL.

PAGB chief executive Michelle Riddalls said the Alliance “will be well placed to help streamline further switches and help identify further categories or conditions where there are products that might be considered suitable for switching”.

According to research commissioned by the PAGB, carried out by Frontier Economics and published in July, future reclassifications of appropriate medicines can lead to more self-care at home and result in a 5 per cent reduction in NHS prescribing spend and a potential NHS saving of £1.4 billion.

The research also suggested reclassifications could help eliminate 25 million unnecessary GP appointments and five million avoidable visits to A&E while the economy would benefit by an additional £350 million a year because employees would not have to take time off work to attend “avoidable NHS appointments”.

“In the 40 years since the first reclassification, the UK has come a long way in improving access to medicines and medical devices,” Riddalls said. “From the first medicines to go through MHRA’s switch process in 1983 (loperamide and ibuprofen), the UK OTC medicines environment has developed rapidly, leading to greater patient treatment innovation and choice. As a result, reclassification has transformed the ability of patients to take control of their health and manage their self-treatable conditions.”

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine told the event that previous reclassifications had taught the health industry it was important to ensure “the right switch at the right time” is made and insisted switching should be “truly data-driven”.

“The MHRA is proud of its role in helping to make self-care products safely and widely available, making a real difference to patients,” Dr Raine said. “We welcome being part of the Reclassification Alliance, and we are listening to the views of industry, as well as patients and medical professionals.

“We want to hear how we can improve our processes in the future, to make more medical products available through pharmacies or on general sale – where it is safe to do so, and where it can bring the greatest benefits to public health.”

She insisted “reclassification fits with” the MHRA’s “mission to keep patients safe and enable access to high quality, safe and effective medical products.”

Pharmacist Mark Burdon, who is an advisor to the PAGB, said many cases “where OTC medicines lead to better health outcomes” had not been “well documented” but insisted “there is credible evidence of wider societal benefits”.

“Increased switching of Prescription Only Medicines to Pharmacy Medicines improves patient and public choice of how they access their treatment and as a result broadening the options for accessing healthcare,” he said.

“For things like contraception, menopause and erectile dysfunction, it may be that patients are not aware that a pharmacist can provide advice and relevant medicines such as ED therapies and this knowledge gap needs to be filled.

“But the fact that people are still seeking GP appointments for colds, headaches and even cold sores shows we have to keep hammering home the message that self-care is the ultimate win-win.”

Insisting “the benefits of reclassification for patients are huge”, the PAGB said its research showed 96 per cent of people in the UK experience at least one self-treatable condition every year, while 33 million people had at least one self-treatable condition that was not treated at all.

“Reclassification enables rapid and convenient access to effective medicines, enabling self-care without a GP prescription. It allows patients more autonomy and choice and provides quick, effective relief for ailments,” the trade body said.

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