by Jonathan Workman, AESGP President

As we reflect upon the year 2023, it stands out as another period marked by profound global challenges that have impacted the lives of everyone in Europe. Geopolitical conflicts, economic uncertainties, and mounting healthcare system pressures have highlighted the continued necessity for and relevance of the self-care industry, showcasing its integral role in societal resilience and individual well-being. It may be becoming cliché, but it is true that uncertainty is the new normal. 

In this environment, the industry has not only stood firm to its mission to deliver safe, effective, and sustainable self-care products without interruption, working in partnership with regulators and others, but has also pushed forward our agenda to underscore our pivotal position in the healthcare ecosystem. New research published by AESGP this year shows that if non-prescription medicines were not available, every general practice doctor in Europe would have to work 2.4 h longer every day. We can be proud of the role that our industry plays in supporting healthcare professionals and delivering better health to everyone. 

2023 also heralded significant legislative engagements for AESGP. Our continued involvement in the implementation of the Medical Devices Regulation demonstrated our adaptability and proactive approach, ensuring that transitions from Directive to Regulation did not hinder patient access to crucial medical devices. We finally saw the publication of proposed revisions to the General Pharmaceutical Legislation, presenting a number of challenges and opportunities for us as an industry. We welcomed several proposed regulatory simplifications, including the elimination of renewals and the sunset clause, which mark significant strides toward regulatory efficiency, and we commend these changes.

Nevertheless, we hold reservations about certain proposals, particularly those that suggest expanding prescription requirements for antimicrobials to encompass antivirals and antifungals, covering treatments for conditions like herpes labialis, vaginal thrush, dandruff, and athlete’s foot, alongside addressing environmentally hazardous substances. Such changes threaten to limit the accessibility of self-care treatments significantly, potentially increasing the burden on our already strained health systems. In response, the AESGP have engaged proactively with the European Parliament and Council throughout the latter part of the year, striving to temper these provisions and protect the availability of self-care treatments. Given the General Pharmaceutical Legislation’s extensive scope, encompassing thousands of pages and numerous articles, we anticipate our advocacy will extend into 2024 and beyond. Our experience with the Medical Devices Regulation informs our approach: thorough, considered efforts are essential to crafting a legislative framework that is robust, relevant, and responsive to the needs of today and tomorrow.

“Empowering sustainable healthcare in Europe” is our vision, we strive to be recognised as a sustainable industry reducing its environmental footprint. Therefore, we created a new Environmental Sustainability Committee, which brings companies and national experts together to advance our green transition. Furthermore, we believe in the value of partnerships, we know that they are essential to advance the green agenda. Therefore, we joined efforts with several other European associations active in packaging, pharmaceuticals, brands, MedTech, food, etc.

Concluding my first year of AESGP Presidency, I am pleased to share this report, which summarises the topics that matter to us. Behind this report there are thousands of hours dedicated to our mission to advance self-care by AESGP Brussels team, committee members, experts, and my fellow board members. 

As we look onwards, I am optimistic about the role we can play in transforming healthcare for the people of Europe. The achievements of the past year lay a robust foundation for our continued advocacy and innovation in self-care. But the journey forward must build on this momentum. We must speak as one clear voice to policymakers, encouraging them to embrace the opportunities for growth and collaboration and reinforcing the value proposition of self-care in enhancing health outcomes and system sustainability through high quality data and case studies.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the AESGP team, our members, and partners for their unwavering dedication and contributions. Together, we have navigated some significant challenges over the past 12 months, setting the stage for a future where self-care is acknowledged as a vital component of health and wellness, and ready to address the evolving needs of our societies.