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New Zealand ahead in self-managing common conditions

New Zealand ahead in self-managing common conditions

Media Release

University of Auckland

23 September 2014

Embargoed to 6am (NZT) 25th September 2014

New Zealand ahead in self-managing common conditions

New Zealand and the United Kingdom are the most progressive countries for empowering consumers to self-manage common conditions, according to recent research.

In a study, just published in PLOS ONE, University of Auckland General Practice researcher, Dr Natalie Gauld and her international co-authors outline the missed opportunities for people to self-manage common conditions in some countries.

Their six-country comparison (United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, the Netherlands and New Zealand) highlights international variation in shifting medicines with established safety profiles from prescription to non-prescription.

Switching or reclassifying medicines with established safety profiles from prescription to non-prescription aims to increase timely and convenient consumer access to medicines, reduce under-treatment and enhance self-management.

“We aimed to provide a comprehensive comparison of progress in switching or reclassifying medicines in the six developed countries,” says Dr Gauld.

For example, she says, “In contrast to her British counterpart, an American woman can now self-medicate for urinary incontinence. However, this American woman cannot self-treat with a well-known migraine treatment available in the United Kingdom.”

“Nor can she access an effective treatment for a urinary tract infection without a prescription, unless she is visiting New Zealand,” says Dr Gauld. “In the context of aging populations and burgeoning health care costs, our finding further illustrates potentially unnecessary geographic variation in consumer access to health care.”

“While the research shows that New Zealand and the United Kingdom have been the most progressive countries in terms of empowering consumers to self-treat, the study calls for further research to understand the benefits and risks to consumers,” she says.

New Zealand was the most active in progressive reclassifying medicines for self-treatment in the target study period of 2003 to 2013, with the United Kingdom and Japan not far behind.

The USA, Australia and the Netherlands were the least active in that period.
Few medicines for long-term conditions have been switched or reclassified for self-treatment, even in the UK and NZ where first-in-world switches were most likely. Switch of some medicines also took considerably longer in some countries than others.

“For example, a consumer in the UK could self-medicate with a non-sedating antihistamine, 19 years earlier than a consumer in the USA,” says Dr Gauld.

“The difference in consumer access between countries suggests that the health system in some countries could be unnecessarily burdened by conditions that may reasonably be self-managed or pharmacist-managed instead,” she says.


The paper is available at: from 25 September 2014 (NZ time).

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