Monday, November 17, 2008

Why men won't go to high-street pharmacists

The RPSGB - the professional organisation for high-street pharmacists - is claiming male machismo is responsible for 40,000 deaths a year. They cite their research showing that 59% of blokes only seek medical advice if they are ‘very ill or in great pain’. A lot of women will be sceptical of that in the manflu season.

Even if we are as reluctant as the survey suggests, is it really the result of machismo? One in seven men were honest enough to admit that they didn't go the GP as they were afraid of what they might be told. Feeling scared and admitting it are not exactly macho traits and the real number of men who feel like this is surely much higher.

The RSPGB solution to this is to tell us 'to snap out of the ‘big boys don’t cry’ mind-set and start taking health problems seriously.' Now I'm a big supporter of the RSPGB's work and share their view that getting more blokes to use pharmacists is a good way of overcoming our reluctance to go our GPs but I'm not convinced that shouting at people is the best way to get them into your shop.

The main reason men don't consult their pharmacist as much as we would like is that pharmacists still aren't very male-friendly. Few make it obvious - through a simple poster, for example - that they offer health advice and few make it obvious that they are places that welcome men on an equal basis to women. My local store smells like a perfume factory and is packed with products and posters aimed at women. From the street, it is virtually impossible to see a single product aimed at men.

Yes, men are partly responsible for their own health problems - that's hardly headline news - but should shops be blaming their potential customers for not using them or looking to get their marketing sorted?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Has the time come for decent online pharmacies?

Like junk mail and cold calling, spamming works on the 'there's one born every minute' theory of marketing. US researchers have finally put a number on this - apparently spammers get about one response for every 12,500,000 emails they spam out. It's a pathetic return - a lot less than the 2% return on junk mail - but if you spew enough spam, there's still money in it. And who cares if the so-called health product you're selling is made of blue paint and pesticides.

But the real number of online punters is far higher than this. New research from Pfizer, the drug company who make Viagra, suggests that one man in ten has bought prescription drugs online without a prescription. Obviously Pfizer have their own agenda - patents expire in 2011–2013 and they want to maximise their return - and the sample was small (less than 1000) but all the same this backs up our findings on malehealth.

Our survey earlier this year suggested that three out of every five men would consider buying drugs online without a prescription in the right circumstances. The trouble is at the moment they're likely to be buying junk - two out of three online pharma products are counterfeit. Given this potential demand, perhaps rather than telling men not to buy online we should be creating the environment to enable them to do it safely. What do you think?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama? Statins? We're all looking for the quick health fix

Over a month since my last post. Must be all the excitement around Barack Obama's election in the US. Or is it Harry Redknapp's arrival at White Hart Lane? Both have certainly been good for my health.

And health is apparently near the top of the new president's agenda. In an article on the MHF website, My Plan For A Healthy America, you can read how he's planning to bring 45 million uninsured Americans in from the cold. He doesn't pull any punches identifying the 'strangleholds' and 'market manipulation' of drug companies and insurers as part of the problem.

The pharmaceutical industry - the US's most profitable industry - is reportedly worried that Obama's plans could be bad for their profits

But I doubt we'll see any of the big pharma companies going under anytime soon. Not while so many in the media are only too happy to report without caveat on drug trials that suggest we should all be dosing up on cholesterol-lowering statins whether we need them or not. The full story is on malehealth.