Empowering the Self-Care Emergence

We speak to GSK Ireland Country Manager Dave Barrett about the increased awareness of self-care and the role GSK plays in empowering consumers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider,” and add in subsequent publications that “self-care interventions are among the most promising and exciting new approaches to improve health and well-being, both from a health systems perspective and for people who use these interventions.”

There has never been a time of greater awareness as to the importance of effective self-care than now. As Covid-19 moved from outbreak to epidemic and subsequently, pandemic, it has brought with it an immediate need for a health system transformation whereby less dependency on healthcare professionals is key.

With community pharmacists and allied professionals such as GPs face unprecedented pressure, empowering consumers to selfcare where appropriate is vital. Industry, of course, will have to adapt to this shift.

GSK are already steps ahead of the game, synonymous for their work within this area. We recently caught up with Country Manager Dave Barrett to dig a little deeper into how they are supporting pharmacy and consumers within the self-care arena.

Overseeing Evolution

Dave Barrett has been a part of the GSK family for just over 30 years, having moved through the sales function from Territory Representative, Business Unit management in Ireland and Sales Director in their UK business for the Pharmacy and Field teams. “I am proud of my history with GSK, and was delighted to be asked to return home to manage the divestment of our drinks business and re-establish GSK as a leading consumer healthcare provider,” he says.

“Since back in Ireland, I have had the pleasure of Chairing the IPHA Consumer Healthcare division for almost four years, during which time we worked closely with the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) to really amplify the importance of self-care to our consumers and patients.”

Dave is now Country Manager for GSK’s Consumer Healthcare business, overseeing the company’s evolution through multiple changes including joint ventures and many successful new product launches, such as Voltarol 2% Gel and Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum.

He continues, “At GSK, we have a very structured approach to running our business, but despite this, every day genuinely feels different. Our business is commercially focused, and I lead a team of passionate, dedicated professionals, who I let get on with their roles as much as possible.

“From my own perspective, I always prioritise customer and consumer focused actions, with as many customer meetings as possible while continuously reviewing our consumer execution plans.”

Reflecting on the last twelve months, Brexit preparations were on the agenda of all pharmaceutical companies, not just in Ireland but across Europe. Despite the arrival of Covid-19 diverting this focus, the challenges remain.

Overcoming Challenges

“Compared to 2020, 2019 feels like a long time ago now,” Dave adds. “As a Pan-Ireland business, the biggest challenge for us last year was preparing for Brexit and ensuring no disruption to supply. While we know the UK has now left the EU, this challenge remains ahead of us. With no extension to the transition period requested by the UK government, we now have less than five months to understand the implications of a potential No Deal exit by our near neighbours.

“As a large company, with Headquarters in London, we were uniquely placed to prepare for Brexit. Specialist teams were put in place as soon as the vote took place. Extensive planning with Supply Chain, Quality, Finance and Regulatory as well as with key stakeholders such as the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) allowed us to ensure that the impact could be kept as low as possible.”

Whilst 2020 thus far has played out in a way no-one could ever have predicted, there have been numerous positives for Dave to note.

“This year has been full of ups and downs, which included me fulfilling my own selfcare driven dream of getting to Everest base camp (and back) in early March. I am also immensely proud of the achievements of the team in GSK with regards to a number of accomplishments and milestones.”

One of these has been the successful integration of the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare business, bringing together two legacy teams as a single operational entity in GSK Consumer Healthcare.

“Completed on April 27th, this joint venture brings together an array of fantastic brands including Sensodyne, Voltarol, Panadol, Corsodyl, Centrum and Nexium,” he says.

“The combined portfolio means GSK strengthens its positions in pain relief, respiratory, vitamins, minerals and supplements, and therapeutic oral health categories and cements the company’s position as the world’s number one OTC business.

“I’m also really proud of our consistent market performance, which has been maintained despite all the new and unique challenges of managing the integration of two great business during a global pandemic, where our priority has been the safety and wellbeing of our teams. Our performance has been helped in no small part by the successful launches of products like Corsodyl alcohol free mouthwash, Corsodyl Complete Protection and Panadol Actifast Soluble.”

Leading the Way

As already mentioned, GSK are identifiable by their presence within the self-care market, amongst others, being well placed to help redefine the role of selfcare in people’s lives through responsible education and scientifically-backed brands.

Dave continues, “The Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most significant moments in our recent history. The magnitude of its impact has unsurprisingly caused many people to change and re-evaluate their behaviors across different aspects of their lives. Their health is one of these.

“Self-care is not a new concept; people have always taken action to look after their personal health and treat minor illnesses. Although by definition, self-care can take place without the need to visit a healthcare professional, effective and safe self-care is best undertaken with the benefit of professional advice. Pharmacists have the skills and training to ensure that patients have an open source of professional expertise in self-care matters.

“Patients are no longer passive recipients of healthcare and advice. Greater health literacy and greater access to information, combined with increased individual interest in personal health and personal choice, is leading to more and more patients actively looking after themselves. In addition, public awareness has increased the importance of certain lifestyle factors, such as avoidance of smoking and a balanced diet, in maintaining health and preventing illness.

“In this context, self-care can be seen as the most widely available form of healthcare. As pressure grows on the Irish healthcare system, self-care will come to be seen as a means of controlling and rationalising healthcare and medication costs. If we are to successfully confront the demands on our health system as the population ages, we need to ensure that we all stay fit and healthy for as long as possible.”

Thinking Differently

As someone who has been improving his own health, through getting more active and improving diet, Dave firmly believes in the foundations and principles of self-care.

“I’m really proud of how the selfcare movement has developed in Ireland over the last few years.

“Pharmacists have always played a crucial role in selfcare and through the work of the IPHA, in collaboration with the Irish Pharmacy Union, we have started to get real traction with consumers and patients, encouraging us all to ‘Think Pharmacy First’.

“At GSK, we recognise the essential role that pharmacists and pharmacy teams play in the healthcare system and we’re committed to supporting them through industry leading category training and innovative product launches. GSK is committed to self-care, from staying fit and well, right through to ensuring the appropriate category therapeutic solutions are available when consumers become unwell.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly taught consumers in Ireland to become more aware about the importance of self-care, prompting them to make positive changes to their day-to-day lives for the benefit of their health.

“Covid-19 has forced us all to think and behave differently, not only as consumers but also as a healthcare industry. As self-care has been defined as ‘helping consumers proactively pursue healthy lives, but when unwell, think self-care and self-medication’ there has never been a more important or relevant time for self-care.

“Our priorities through Covid-19 have been focused on maintaining a consistent supply and ensuring the safety of our team and those of our customers. Due to necessary restrictions on access, our HCP Customer teams have had to adapt their approach supporting pharmacy, using Microsoft Teams or Skype or indeed the old-fashioned telephone.”

Trusting Brands

It has been said, that consumers are now turning to brands they trust, those that are established with strong heritage and that are grounded in science. How has GSK managed to retain their brand strength, we asked.

“I 100% agree with this statement,” Dave notes. “Consumers use brands they trust and believe in. At GSK we’re grounded in science and committed to making the best decisions for our consumers and customers and we support our brands through extensive investment.

“Panadol Tablets are manufactured in Dungarvan Co Waterford and we have partnered with RTE to continuously remind consumers of the science and heritage which are associated with this brand. Voltarol 2% Gel was one of the most successful Rx to OTC switches and is heavily supported via product training and in store presence.

“Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum and Corsodyl Alcohol Free Mouthwash are two of our most recent therapeutic oral health launches, driven by consumer insight and supported through Dental education.”

In looking to the future, Dave notes that ability to adapt is going to be key. “There is no doubt that we’re entering a new world which calls on us all to demonstrate great agility in our approach to managing the needs of our consumers and patients. Challenges like keeping our staff and shoppers safe while achieving the best outcome per visit.

“We also see how consumers and patients are going online more, both for information and to purchase products. These shifts in consumer behaviour are not limited to consumer goods and we need to be ready for consumers / patients who use the internet as their source of information and also who seek to purchase their self-care products though that channel. “GSK will continue to support pharmacies in providing education and making products available for pharmacists to provide the highest level of care for their patients. Individually and through IPHA, we will continue to support self-care and ensure that consumers and patients continue to think, pharmacy first.”

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