As the nation prepares for the next wave of Covid-19, it is important to ease the burden on the health system. Consumer health can play a vital role.
Recently, the Government approved self-testing Covid kits for home use, with guidelines for reporting. Diagnostics providers, including Abbott, responded by providing self-tests accompanied by reporting apps that link directly to the Indian Council of Medical Research’s national database. This underlines the benefit of responsible self-care on public health.
In India, many patients do not have access to medicines because they are unable to obtain a prescription. Several factors impede access, including the lack of a healthcare facility nearby, lack of trained medical professionals, and time or economic constraints. At times, they resort to home remedies. As a result, patients often live with their symptoms, which impacts their quality of life. There is an urgent need for a well-regulated OTC (over-the-counter) market wherein specified medicines can be purchased without a prescription for common conditions. A vibrant consumer health ecosystem is needed to equip people to make informed decisions.
Well-defined regulations on marketing, distribution and consumption of OTC medicines are needed, now more than ever. Digitalisation can broaden the reach of the OTC ecosystem. For instance, the industry is launching smart packaging for OTC products, so consumers can scan a QR code on the pack for more information about the product. This helps fill knowledge gaps and promotes health awareness. Consumers also favour innovations such as antacids that go beyond traditional syrup formats to be available as single-dose gels, stick packs or powder sachets, combining scientifically proven formulations with convenience.
There are many benefits to a thriving OTC ecosystem, but it cannot be realised without the collaboration of Government and private industry to enable appropriate regulations, technologies and innovations. Such a collaboration should be guided by patient centricity and a focus on empowering consumers to make responsible choices.
Anil Joseph is Managing Director, Abbott India Limited. Views are personal
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