CHPA optimistic about OTC future - News - Consumer Healthcare Products Association

CHPA optimistic about OTC future - News - Consumer Healthcare Products Association.AVENTURA, Fla. -- Some 350 executives converged last month in the Tumberry Isle Resort & Club here for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association's Annual Executive Conference.

While it rained the Saturday morning of Prevention magazine's scheduled fun run, that didn't dampen the spirits of the many long-distance runners operating in the consumer health care market. The forecast for over-the-counter remedies is sunny, both immediate and long term.

Uwe Reinhardt, professor of economics at Princeton University, told a packed room on the conference's last day that no matter how the health care crisis plays out for pharmaceutical p layers, the business of OTC should benefit. "If the insurance carriers knew what they were doing," the economist said, "they would actually cover most [OTCs] by having some reimbursement, rather than only prescription drugs." If health care spending this country continues to trend as it has, the United States will spend the equivalent of 17 percent of its gross domestic product (some $1.4 trillion) on health care.

Though the increase in health care spending will result mostly from hospital stays, there still will be pressure to reduce prescription drug costs, especially from managed care. And that pressure will result in higher OTC utilization--whether it's consumers driven to OTCs by higher co-pays or whether it's consumers attracted to OTCs because they are covered by insurance.

And the CHPA is looking to drive OTC utilization by lobbying for a tax deduction for OTCs. "We are extremely active in encouraging Congress to allow greater utilization of cost-effective health care options by allowing consumers to include over-the-counter medicines as a tax-deductible medical expense," CHPA chairman Richard Green told conference attendees. "We also are pushing for allowing consumers to use their flexible medical spending accounts to purchase non-prescription medicines," he said.

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Mark McClellan addressed the CHPA attendees, identifying dietary supplements as an area in which the FDA "needs to step up efforts" of oversight. This will make for a stronger market, McClellan said. Indeed, the, FDA had proposed its good manufacturing practices just six days before the conference (see related story on page 13).

McClellan also assured CHPA members that the FDA would continue to step up its efforts against those companies making misleading product claims to the detriment of responsible dietary supplement marketers. 'Last year we inspected about 8 0 dietary supplement firms. We seized a number of products [including supplements for the 'treatment' of autism and herpes]. We will be coming after these products aggressively in the future, McClellan promised.

McClellan also told CHPA attendees that the FDA soon would take further action regarding ephedra, the much-maligned diet aid ingredient. "We are in a comment period right now on reopening a regulation that the FDA proposed in 1997 to restrict ephedra use," McClellan said.

Looking forward, CHPA president Linda Suydam identified three key initiatives for the consumer health care association that are part of the association's outreach programs: to improve the image of OTCs, to look at the health and economic benefits associated with OTC utilization and to examine ways of correcting misuses and abuses of OTC medicines. "We now want to look at outreach as part of our overall communication strategy," she said. The CHPA is working to educate retailers, government officials and consumers as part of its outreach efforts.

The CHPA also announced plans to enhance its online functionality. By this spring, the association plans to have all relative of both the policy pagers an the Federal Trade Commission accessible to members in a virtual library. "In addition, we want to provide consumers with better and more helpful information about OTC and dietary supplements," commented Suydam.

In other conference news, Timothy Hayes, senior vice president and region head in North America of Bayer's consumer care division, was named CHPA's chairman-elect and will succeed CHPA chairman Green, president and chief operating officer of Blistex,