Roche Products Ltd 40 Broadwater Road Welwyn Garden City Hertfordshire AL7 3AY Tel: 01707 366 993 Fax: 01707 395 292 Key PERSONNEL Trade category manager ­ OTC medicines Matt Dealtry Brand manager ­ Rennie Core and Deflatine Emmanuel Pradon Grocery trade sector manager Keith Ford Key brands · Rennie · Rennie Rapeze · Rennie Deflatine · Rennie Duo · Pro-Plus · Aspro · Radian B · Sanatogen · Redoxon · Berocca · Cystopurin · Feminax Pricing is key to healthy sector The end of retail price maintenance for over the counter medicines would force some suppliers out of business and could pose a health risk. The stark warning comes from Roche, one of the biggest players in the self medication market as manufacturers gear up for a showdown in the high court this autumn. The last bastion of RPM in the retail sector, over the counter medicines have employed the full weight of the law to fight off attempts by multiples to cut brand prices in the past. But on October 16 it will find itself in the dock when the Restrictive Practices Court takes evidence from retailers, including Asda, which argues that consumers could save up to £300m a year if the court rules against what Asda calls "price fixing in medicines". Maintenance value According to Matt Dealtry, Roche trade category manager in OTC, there is a strong case for the retention of RPM. He believes consumer choice will be significantly eroded because a number of products will disappear and there will be less product development. "Some suppliers could go out of business," he says. More worrying, Dealtry believes any retail promotions would inevitably encourage purchases of OTC products in greater quantities than are required for immediate need. "As a result, if RPM was abolished, the risks of misuse causing a danger to health are materially increased." The October hearing will be told that OTC prices have risen ahead of inflation in the past year. If true, that could be largely attributable to an enforced change in pack sizes brought about by government attempts to cut the number of overdoses from analgesics. The legislation, which affects all non-pharmacy outlets, introduced a maximum pack size of 16 analgesic tablets or capsules. Less for more The policy had the desired effect. Overdoses from paracetamol have fallen dramatically, while consumers have "traded up" to branded products, recouping in value sales what suppliers lost in volume. Dealtry says there is no reason why brands should lose market share now. "Branded suppliers who continue to communicate the benefits of their brands will retain their share," he says. "Consumers, in most cases, benefit from improved formulas and technical advances." Meanwhile, Roche is targeting the independent grocery sector where it has identified retailers' limited time and shelf space, together with shrinkage, as the main impediments to growth. Healthy improvement In conjunction with Crookes Healthcare and Warner Lambert Consumer Health, it has developed an integral merchandising unit which gives added impact to a category which often finds itself hidden behind the shop counter. "We have developed an initiative to assist the independent grocer in creating a profitable medicines range whilst recognising the practical limitations that exist," says Dealtry. "The unit adds visibility to the medicines category whilst creating a balanced medicines range that includes all ailments and brand leaders." He believes it will encourage independent retailers to make more of the category. "The medicines category has seen an increase in value sales in recent years as consumers are being encourage to self medicate minor ailments. "Medicines are an impulse or distress purchase and form an important opportunity for the independent grocer." {{Z SUPPLEMENTS }}