Problems ‘below the waist’ are not generally seen as attractive topics for public discussion and women are often reluctant to seek help
In her annual report, The Health of the 51 per cent: Women, released in December 2015, chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies discusses the biggest health risks to women, from taboo health conditions, such as incontinence, to the risks of obesity.
With this range of health risks highlighted to women, pharmacies have a responsibility to raise awareness, reassure female customers and advise on the right products. “Problems ‘below the waist’ are not generally seen as attractive topics for public discussion and women are often reluctant to seek help for common disabling conditions,” says Dame Sally in her report.
“This needs to end – women should never suffer in silence. Breaking the taboo around these subjects will help more women come forward and get the care they need.” So is it about time that pharmacists took action on taboos?
In July 2015, Bayer HealthCare announced the launch of two new OTC products within the Canesten brand to self-test and self-treat thrush and bacterial vaginosis (BV) – Canestest and Canesbalance. The Canesten brand has been around for more than 40 years and was winner of the 2015 OTC Marketing Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Canestest self-testing kit consists of a test swab that changes colour to indicate the type of vaginal infection. The clinically tested kit is said to be 90 per cent accurate.
Canesbalance contains lactic acid and glycogen gel to restore the original pH and treat the symptoms of BV, which occur due to bacterial imbalance in the vagina.
Clair Montgomery, senior brand manager for Canestest and Canesbalance, explains why pharmacists should stock the products and remain the first point of contact in educating female customers on self-care options for BV and other intimate care conditions. “Prior to launching Canestest and Canesbalance, Bayer gained exceptional and significant insights into the new category. We discovered some key behaviour such as misunderstanding and lack of knowledge, stigma and embarrassment. These were identified as barriers to women feeling confident enough to discuss BV with pharmacists and their GP, even if an appointment is made.”
Ms Montgomery goes on to explain that BV is actually now more common than thrush: “Women with BV symptoms are able to be tested by their GP and treated with a course of antibiotics. With Canestest and Canesbalance we offer women new options – not alternatives – with which to diagnose and treat the symptoms of BV themselves, whilst remaining mindful that any concerns should be brought to the attention of their pharmacist or GP.
“Pharmacy staff have an immediate and convenient opportunity to engage directly and guide these women by helping to alleviate any embarrassment, and ‘normalise’ their condition whilst explaining the differences in symptoms. Pharmacists are also well placed to recommend appropriate diagnostic and treatment options which women can use themselves in the comfort and convenience of their own home.”
The launch was backed by an extensive £1.2m marketing campaign raising BV awareness in 2015. “Throughout 2016, we will continue to use TV to educate consumers and deliver pharmacy training to support pharmacy and customer conversations.”
The Chief Medical Officer's report shows that five million women are affected by adult incontinence (AI) in the UK and its treatment costs the NHS over £200 million a year. P&G research reveals that 67 per cent of women are also using the wrong protection for urine loss.
Lourdes Fuentes, brand manager for Always and Tampax, explains that pharmacists can help break the AI taboo: “Pharmacies are in a favourable position to start the conversation on AI with their customers and discreetly find out about the specific nature of their condition thanks to the one-on-one consultancy they offer.”
The Always Discreet range of liners, pads and pants was added to the 30-year-old Always range in July 2014. “We know that many of the women affected don’t use the right product that would offer the best level of protection and discretion to meet their needs. The Always Discreet range for sensitive bladder offers solutions for every type of AI, enabling pharmacists to recommend the product that can be right for each individual case so that affected women can live their lives with confidence.”
According to NHS Choices, one in three UK adults have abnormally high blood sugar levels, or 'prediabetes', while 3.9 million people are suffering from diabetes. In Europe alone, 9.6 per cent of women aged 25 years and over suffer from diabetes.
In October 2015, Pharma Nord launched its new blood sugar level control supplement, Bio-Gluco Control. The product contacts Delphinol, a Chilean maqui berry extract, to slow glucose absorption, plus organic chromium yeast ChromoPrecise to help channel glucose from the bloodstream into the cells.
“In a recent Pharma Nord survey, 60 per cent of women said their weight or body type has affected their state of wellbeing and that they are actively looking to reduce sugar from their diet,” says Rasmus Henriksen, national sales manager at Pharma Nord UK. “Bio-Gluco Control provides a natural way to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.”
“Changes in blood sugar levels are common during and after the menopause as the hormones estrogen and progesterone affect how our cells respond to insulin. The natural ingredients slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream and work together with insulin to speed up its removal into cells. The result is healthy blood sugar levels, a more sustained energy supply and fewer cravings for sugary foods and carbohydrates.”
Mentholatum specifically targeted women with its latest swathe of marketing for the Deep Heat range. The new handbag-sized product, Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion, was literally rolled out in September and October 2015. Dagny Graham, group product manager for The Mentholatum Company, explains: “We expect the new lotion to appeal primarily to women aged 25 to 50, who like to feel healthy and who exercise regularly. There are three key uses for Deep Heat Muscle Massage before exercise: to loosen and soften muscles, to rehab soft tissue realigning muscle fibres and break down adhesions and scar tissue and everyday use, and to ease and release knots in shoulders and backs."
The range’s Deep Heat Muscle Rescue Neck and Shoulder Patch also won the accolade of Best New Health and Wellbeing Product at the Beauty Awards in November 2015. The shaped pad delivers up to eight hours of warmth and targeted relief.
Elvy Mardjono, senior product manager for Deep Heat Muscle Rescue, says that untreated tired and tense muscles can lead to other issues such as headaches and more serious back, neck and shoulder problems: “We developed the Muscle Rescue products to help ease muscular tension in the neck and shoulders because we know this is a particular problem for many women. In fact, our research shows that neck and shoulder aches and pains are the second most common pain experienced by women, and tired, tense muscles are often caused by occupational demands and poor posture.”
RB has announced a substantial investment in marketing for its heritage brand E45 this winter. The brand has now had a presence for over 60 years.
The new £2 million TV, digital and point of sale PR campaign, running until March 2016, highlights how winter can aggravate dry skin with central heating, biting weather conditions and itchy woollen fabrics. E45 makes up 50 per cent of all emollient winter sales, according to Nielsen data.