Pharmaceutical giants unite for otc advice line

The pharmaceutical industry has clubbed together to provide a consumer helpline which will give customers advice about over-the-counter (otc) medicines and general health issues.

The operation, called the Consumer Health Information Centre, will be run by an independent company but is backed by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), which represents the manufacturers of branded non-prescription drugs.

The line is being presented as an adjunct to the NHS which will take pressure off general practitioners. It comes in response to an increase in the amount of otc drugs available and a general move towards self medication. There are about 12 drugs a year which change their status from prescription to non-prescription.

The initiative appears to have won the support of the medical profession. A British Medical Association spokesman says: “People can get helpful advice from pharmacists at point of sale. But this service may help those people who can’t get to a chemist regularly.”

The helpline will be manned by a panel of trained pharmacists, doctors and nurses, who can give advice about otc medicine and general health issues. It launches next month and will be available to the consumer at local telephone rates. It will be backed by a nationwide advertising campaign.

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