Consumers are looking for innovation and products beyond the pill, says Alan Main, Sanofi’s Global Head of Consumer Healthcare.

Mr Main was recently in Australia to attend the World Self Medication Industry (WSMI) Conference in Sydney.

He said industry will need to adapt and offer more innovation. “For example, in the United States in 2014 our consumer healthcare team launched game changing technology for over the counter pain products in the form of TENS, a topical analgesic. This revolutionised over the counter pain care in the US, as it was the first time outside of the clinic this kind of product was available to consumers.

“This type of innovation can lead to better utilisation of self-care. As an industry, we need to focus on these types of innovation if we are to enhance health outcomes and therefore help governments in reducing healthcare system costs.”

According to Mr Main, the rise of online platforms, with the wide availability of information on treatments, makes it all the more important for industry to educate consumers.

“We think there are enormous benefits to a more engaged and educated consumer. While digital is going some way to driving consumer knowledge, for self-care to be more widely adopted, we need to do more in educating with consumers on ailments they are able to self-treat and also when they need to see a physician.

“We know that digital, real world data and big data are changing all aspects of healthcare. However, not many health stakeholders are keeping up with the opportunities it creates, or issues that may arise – whether it is industry, pharmacy, government and even the consumer themselves.”

He said the leading countries are thinking about how they can best embrace data to support consumers and health decision-making.

“For example, in the US there is now guidance to follow when developing a mobile health app. There is an opportunity for a complete rethink of consumer pathways given these changes.”

He said, while countries are difficult to compare in terms of policy supporting consumer access to over the counter medicines, there is a “more conservative approach on a global scale.”

“It is concerning to see many countries making moves to upschedule over the counter products without full consideration to the number of consumers who use these products responsibly,” he said.

“We are also seeing governments around the world reluctant to use switch as a tool for healthcare policy. I chaired a panel session at the WSMI General Assembly that covered some interesting research on how switch can provide consumer benefits as well as economic benefits for healthcare systems. As an industry we have to get better at using this data in our conversations with government and regulators and I know this will be a focus for WSMI in the future.

“Sanofi strongly supports the appropriate and responsible use of all medicines and we want to continue to have a good dialogue with regulators and governments on these issues so that we can deliver better health outcomes for all consumers.”