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New initiatives put focus on consumer OTC education

BY Michael Johnsen

It’s been a busy year for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. And while the association never lost sight of its primary objective—serving the best interest of the self-care consumer through higher-than-regulations-require standards and best practices—never before has the “consumer” in consumer healthcare been quite as important as in the past several years.

Kids cough-cold, dextromethorphan, behind-the-counter medicines, all are issues with the potential to greatly impact the business of the OTC industry, and yet all have been addressed by CHPA with more of the consumer’s best interests in mind. Efforts include pulling cough-cold products for children under age 2 off the shelves because of the danger in overdosing infants and promising resources against pharmacokinetic studies to best determine appropriate dosing in other child-age groups; partnering with a host of national anti-drug associations to help raise awareness around teenage abuse of nonprescription medicines; and making the case that there is enough flexibility in the current two-class drug system to make discussion of a three-class system, which could threaten ready consumer access, moot.

Not long after the Food and Drug Administration held its advisory committee on kids cough-cold, CHPA kicked its communication on the issue into high gear. The association partnered with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores the month after the FDA advisory meeting to distribute a “practice memo” to pharmacists so that they could best advise parents with sick children on how to relieve their child’s symptoms, stressing the importance of following drug label directions—don’t administer adult medicines to kids, follow dosing recommendations explicitly and keep all medicines out of the reach of their youngsters. A January CDC report found that most emergency-room visits made by children on account of a cough-cold medicine were there because they had taken the medicine without their parents’ knowledge.

In addition to educating the influencer, CHPA also is reaching directly to parents on the proper use of OTC medicines in children. “We’ve done a major national print advertising campaign, [and] we have brochures that are available to parents that we’ve been distributing through the retail outlets as well,” said Virginia Cox, CHPA senior vice president, communications and strategic initiatives. “Most importantly, we developed a brand new Web site called www.OTCSafety.org.”

OTCSafety.org, formerly known as the Consumer Health Education Center, “is really one-stop-shopping for parents who are looking for important information about all the issues…not just for themselves, but for their families,” Cox said. The Web site had been redesigned last fall to be more accessible to consumers just before last year’s FDA meeting on cough and cold, hence the name-change. “OTCSafety is a lot easier to remember,” Cox said. “It really personifies what we’re trying to do. It makes it simple.”

CHPA is actively promoting the site—through e-mails and Google ads, for example—and encouraging consumers visiting the site to get involved.

“Just in the last couple weeks, we’ve had more than 15,000 people sign up to be a part of OTCSafety.org,” Cox said. “We’re also working on [translating] our materials into Spanish…because that audience is very large and growing. We want to make sure we’re making our materials as accessible as possible.”

The consumer products association also is maintaining the www.fivemoms.com Web site—launched in the spring of last year to help raise awareness around medicine abuse by teens among parents and educators. “We’ve reached almost 22 million parents across the country with our Five-Moms messages,” Cox said. “Over the last year, we’ve really seen all of our [abuse awareness] programs coming together.”

CHPA is in the classrooms with educational materials in conjunction with D.A.R.E.; in the media with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and public service announcements; in the communities partnered with Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America on raising awareness among teachers, parents and law enforcement; and online with the Five-Moms campaign, which will include a new monthly e-newsletter this year. CHPA also plans to launch a program this year with the Parents-Teacher Association “so that we can really saturate the schools,” Cox said. “We’re also working on expanding the D.A.R.E. program to school nurses and guidance counselors.”

With regard to a new third class of drugs, CHPA continues to lobby fervently for increased access to appropriate medicines, they just don’t think a BTC class of drugs is necessary to accomplish that. “The last several years have seen a significant number of successful Rx-to-OTC switches across a wide range of therapeutic categories, which have benefited millions of patients with such conditions as migraines, frequent recurring heartburn, vaginal yeast infections and hair loss,” stated Linda Suydam, CHPA president, in the wake of the debate last year. “In itself, this is ample evidence that our current regulatory system allows for safe, expanded consumer access to medicines. Most importantly, flexibility is built in to the existing framework, with sponsors having the opportunity to work with the agency and to design the appropriate tools to address any challenges to that particular medicine.”

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MinuteClinic moves forward with Massachusetts plans

BY Antoinette Alexander

MINNEAPOLIS MinuteClinic, a clinic operator owned by CVS Caremark, has applied for its first 10 clinic sites in Massachusetts and expects the opening dates to be in late summer to early fall.

As previously reported by Drug Store News, in January, state health officials approved regulations allowing for limited service medical clinics, marking the end of a long review process that included two public hearings and the submission of hundreds of pages of testimony regarding the regulations.

MinuteClinic stated that it is working with the Massachusetts Department of Health and “is confident that the sites meet the regulatory requirements and will receive approval to move forward.”

The new in-store clinics are planned for CVS stores in Ashland, Beverly, Bridgewater, Danvers, Medford, Medway, Stoughton, Taunton, Tewkesbury and Westford.

The sites are the first of a total of 25 to 30 the company expects to open in Massachusetts by the end of 2008.

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Hallmark exits online flower and gift business

BY Doug Desjardins

KANSAS CITY, Mo. Hallmark is exiting the online gift and flower business, citing a less-than-acceptable return on investment. The move will result in the loss of about 100 jobs at its corporate headquarters and distribution center in Memphis, Tenn., though Hallmark said it would try to find new jobs in the company for those workers.

Hallmark started its online flower business in 2001 and its online and catalog gift and decor business in 2005. The decision will not affect its online business for greeting cards and stationery. A company spokeswoman said Hallmark decided to shutter the flower and gift divisions after determining they “couldn’t guarantee the results we needed.”

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