Oya Canbas, Head of Bayer Consumer Health in the UK and Ireland.

Fifteen years ago, when Bayer acquired Roche’s consumer health business, along with the Swiss fi rm’s leading vitamin and mineral brands, it catapulted the company into the premier league of global OTC businesses.

The person in charge of the company’s consumer health segment in the UK and Ireland, Oya Canbas, is very optimistic of continued success despite recent negative press over Bayer’s takeover of Monsanto in 2016.

Self-care

In a recent report, the strategic market research group, Euromonitor, said: “When it comes to health and self-care, consumers want to cut out the middle person. ‘I Can Look After Myself’ is a key consumer trend for 2019 and comes as a reaction to the impulsive and highly restrictive mode of consumerism.”

Ms Canbas, who’s also vice president of Propriety Association of Great Britain, believes there is plenty of room for her company to cash in on this trend.

“Even with an ever-ageing population, a lot of consumers are working towards prevention and healthy lifestyle. With that, a lot of our categories globally, as well as in the UK, are seeing substantial growth.”

And pharmacists, she says, are central to the growth because “a lot of times consumers need a trusted source when it comes to health. With their exceptional clinical knowledge, pharmacists can safely recommend the right solution to a patient’s problem.

“We see a big shift also in terms of some of the minor ailments, as we know that patients are not necessarily going to go and look for advice from a doctor, but they are very much likely to visit their closest pharmacy. So with all these insights, we have been very much strategically investing into the pharmacy as a key channel and as a key partner in terms of building our brands together.”

Exterior of Bayer’s UK headquarters in Reading.

Technology

The NHS believes that technology will transform supply of medicines and delivery of pharmacy services which will require the sector to adopt new and different ways of working. Ms Canbas looks at this as a huge opportunity for community pharmacists in the newly integrated healthcare system.

“I have more faith now than ever before because pharmacists are at a point where they see this pressure increasing and they have to change.”

Old habits die hard, but there are green shoots all around. Ms Canbas thinks the younger generation of pharmacists are more driven towards embracing technology and different new services.

“There is a lot of opportunity now that the NHS has taken a lot of products out of prescription. What better time than now? There is now a forced push on the patients to visit their pharmacy to get recommendations. Clearly that to me is for self-care and OTC products, this is an amazing opportunity.

“That’s why it’s very important that there is a sense of urgency to take as much advantage of that change as possible. We are already seeing some of the growth within the OTC versus Rx dynamic shifting. That shift will be exponential in seeing more and more consumers opting for self-care and visiting their local pharmacies.”

Online

How about the long-feared ‘Amazonisation’ of community pharmacy?

“Health is one sector where people have to have the trust and authenticity of products, although that feels a little bit safer for the OTC stuff.

“Online will feel a bit risky that’s why people will gravitate to the pharmacists because recent studies suggest they [pharmacists] are only behind the GPs in terms of the most reliable and trustworthy source of medical information and guidance.”

Not very many years ago, the medical professionals used to take a standard one-size-fits-all approach to treatment. But increasingly the focus has shifted to personalisation. The impact of personalised medicine on healthcare professionals, including the pharmacists, is becoming increasingly important.

Ms Canbas looks at it as yet another opportunity for pharmacy, “a strategic pillar for Bayer.”

“Some people will want a more personalised solution to a problem than a generic one available online. That’s why we believe investment into the channel is the right thing to do for the purposes of reinforcement. It’s about education, it’s about confidence and it’s about changing the mindset. And we believe in keeping at it, hammering the message across as many times as we need to.

“The ball is in the pharmacists’ court after all – and it’s up to them now to make the most of the current situation and take advantage of the way in which NHS 111 calls are rerouted to them, for example.”

This article also appears in the September issue of Pharmacy Business.

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