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OTC industry has Suydam, CHPA to thank for impact on PSE, DXM

Wayne Bennett

For more than 125 years, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association has helped over-the-counter medicine providers make their products easier for consumers to access.

And yet, CHPA has never been more active in addressing the many regulatory and legislative hurdles required to accomplish its overall mission than it has over the past decade or so—particularly, the last eight years, under the very able leadership of CHPA president Linda Suydam, who retires at the end of this year. Having forged a highly successful 21-year career at the Food and Drug Administration prior to joining CHPA, Suydam came to the organization with an uncanny sense of what it would take to help CHPA and its member companies tell their story, successfully communicating the inherent value nonprescription medicines deliver to the American healthcare system, and during some of the most challenging times the OTC industry has ever had to face.

Without the influence of CHPA, we know what might have been:

Pseudoephedrine-based products would require physician prescriptions; and

The FDA advisory committees that recently voted to maintain consumer access to dextromethorphan may have leaned the other way, moving another highly popular class of cold remedies behind the pharmacy counter for reasons other than safety or efficacy.

These are critical issues that adversely impact consumer access to OTC medicines and lessen the value of self-care.

Another important element of CHPA’s DNA—and another that has grown in importance and sophistication under Suydam’s watch—is in the quality of its member relations programs. This was clearly demonstrated at CHPA’s recent Marketplace Exchange event in September, where former industry executives Barb Hartman and Kathy Steirly of Go Beyond Communications presented a workshop on “Nurturing the Value of Business Relationships.” The discussion provided an important backdrop and a bit of extra context for attendees of the annual event.

The Marketplace Exchange meeting, which CHPA created under Suydam’s leadership, brings together a host of large and small OTC manufacturers, media providers and other service providers of all types, who meet strategically to discuss the value of their collective relationships and examine ways to enhance the value of those relationships. The fact that CHPA has been able to endure through some of the most turbulent times in its history is in large part due to the importance CHPA—and its leader, Linda Suydam—has placed on these business relationships. Indeed, the OTC industry’s ability to mobilize quickly and communicate its story clearly and concisely in times of crisis—PSE and DXM, for instance—is a tribute to the close business relationships CHPA has fostered during the Suydam years.

As this issue went to press, the organization had just announced that Scott Melville had been selected to succeed Suydam, beginning Nov. 1. Melville, who had served as SVP government affairs and general counsel for the Healthcare Distribution and Management Association prior to the announcement, brings over two decades of healthcare, legislative, regulatory and association management experience to his new role. Prior to joining HDMA, Melville served as an attorney and head of government relations for Cephalon, and prior to that, he served in public policy and government affairs positions at Hoffmann-La Roche and Sterling Winthrop. A former chairman of the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Association, prior to joining the healthcare industry, Melville served as legislative counsel and Appropriations Committee associate on the staff of the U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif.

While he may be stepping into some very big shoes, Drug Store News agrees with CHPA chairman Christopher DeWolf’s assessment that Melville’s “experience in public policy, coalition-building and working with government officials and key stakeholders will be invaluable in guiding the industry through the rapidly changing healthcare environment,” the L’il Drug Store Products president and CEO noted.

If you are an OTC manufacturer and have not yet connected to CHPA, do it now. You’ll be fostering some of the strongest business relationships in the industry.

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