P-A CONSUMER PRACTICES STUDY HAS ALREADY BEEN USED IN DEBATES ON TWO STATE LAWS, IN NJ AND NY, TO RESTRICT OTC USE, P-A VP WALDEN TELLS ANNUAL MEETING
P-A's Consumer Survey of Self-Medication has already been used by the assn. to support arguments against two state bills which would have restricted OTC marketing practices in New York and New Jersey, P-A VP-Public Affairs Jack Walden reported at ther May 16 general session of the assn.'s 1984 annual meeting. "In New Jersey," Walden stated, "we have used the study to help defeat a 'druggists' monopoly' bill. And already in New York, we have used it to contest a bill to require special labeling for the elderly." The P-A staffer predicted: "This is just the beginning." In a special annual meeting report on the consumer survey -- conducted for the assn. by Harry Heller Research Corp. -- Walden pointed out the long-term importance of the study to P-A's public affairs activities. "P-A ordered the study and we expect to use it primarily and for years to come," he said, "to strengthen the voice for this industry in testimony before lawmakers in Washington and in the states, in negotiations with regulators and in presentations before opinion makers in the health professions and in the ranks of consumer leadership." The assn. handed out a survey of media coverage which showed that the consumer survey was covered by the general print media over 85 times during the first two weeks after its release. One small clipping included in the P-A tracking of the study came from The Times Of India under the headline: "Who Needs Doctors?" Further Study Needed On Clinical v. Perceived Efficacy, And How Consumers Use OTCs -- Vickery Donald Vickery, MD, President of the Center for Consumer Health Education, noted that the Heller findings of a minor health problem one out of every three days for the average American was the same figure that had been found in other more limited studies of health problems. The Heller findings are "very reassuring," Vickery said, about "our basic perception of what the decision load is for the average individual." Vickery also pointed out that the Heller study "confirms again that most medical decisions are self-care decisions which do not involve medical advide." Vickery, in fact, criticized one finding in the Heller study as being too conservative. "If there is one figure I would try to convince you about in this study, it is this 91% figure [representing the number of medical problems handled without any physician contact]." That figure is "not too high," Vickery maintained, "it is too low." The health consultant said: "If we take into account how individuals use physicians and how they influence the physician's decision making, I feel confident that individuals control the approach to well over 98% of all medical problems." Based on the high degree of individual determination of health care treatment found in the Heller study, Vickery suggested two priorities to further action. First of all, he urged "We must do no harm." He said: "If we artificially induced a shift away from the use of OTC medications and to the use of physicians, we would have further massive increases in health care costs at the same time we actually decrease the individual's ability to satisfactorily deal with common medical problems." The second priority, Vickery maintained, is further attempts to "begin to get together on the question of clinical efficacy and perceived efficacy and the way that people actually use medications." He urged more study of the way that individuals make the health care decisions.
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