Roundtable: CHPA’s ingoing and outgoing chairs discuss state of consumer health care

CHPA’s outgoing chair Paul Gama of Procter & Gamble and incoming chair Michelle Goodridge of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health describe how COVID-19 impacted the consumer healthcare industry.

As Consumer Healthcare Products Association’s chair Paul Gama prepares to hand over board leadership to CHPA chair-elect Michelle Goodridge at the association’s annual meeting in June, both leaders reflect on a historically tumultuous time for our country, the self-care industry and the association. Gama, president of personal health care at Procter & Gamble, and Goodridge, president of U.S. self-care at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, share their insights and perspectives about what companies learned over the last year and how it’s shaping the future of consumer health care.

a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera
Paul Gama, Consumer Healthcare Products Association chair

Self-care in a pandemic
Paul Gama: As the country shut down, my company — and the entire industry — acted to protect the safety of employees while, at the same time, working hard to keep global supply chains and manufacturing functioning to meet heightened consumer demand for self-care products. With our manufacturing plants deemed essential facilities, we needed to take steps to protect our employees on the manufacturing lines. It was a daunting time, but I’m incredibly proud of how our industry was able to keep products largely on shelf and available to consumers wherever they were purchasing them. As the pandemic overwhelmed healthcare systems, our industry went into overdrive to keep people healthy at home, so doctors’ offices and hospitals were available for patients who needed a higher level of care.

Michelle Goodridge: As lockdowns became the norm and consumers stayed home and consolidated store and medical visits, self-care became an even more important part of everyone’s well-being. Over-the-counter medicines helped individuals to safely and effectively treat many of the common symptoms of COVID-19 like fever, nausea, headache and sleep disruption. Sleep and immune support skyrocketed as consumers increasingly sought to support their immune systems with dietary supplements. There was also a shift to e-commerce for consumer healthcare products as consumers rushed online to quickly and safely get the healthcare products they needed. The COVID-19 pandemic radically changed the way we live, from our work to our social lives. Practicing self-care has become essential when it comes to taking care of our emotional health and well-being, and has been critical in the prevention, treatment and stabilization of this global public health crisis.   

The growing role of dietary supplements
PG: Consumers have become more health conscious and are taking a much more proactive approach to wellness, including greater utilization of dietary supplements. The current environment, coupled with advances in nutrition research and innovation in this space, are leading to an expansion across supplement product categories that will endure well beyond the pandemic. It’s an important opportunity for our industry to continue to innovate and bring new self-care products to market that will continue to improve health care in America and across the globe. 

[Read more: VMS will maintain strong post-pandemic role among consumers]

MG: COVID-19 accelerated the supplements market as consumers have looked for total wellness solutions. Record numbers of consumers sought immune support and turned to supplements to help with sleep, stress and mood. Increased demand is certainly a positive development, but it has also opened the door for some bad actors, which could, if left unchecked, pose health risks and undermine con-sumer confidence. CHPA is working with other industry stakeholders to push for modernization of the regulatory framework for supplements to protect consumers, promote innovation, and raise the bar on quality and transparency.

a woman smiling and posing for the camera
Michelle Goodridge, CHPA chair-elect

The rise of consumer medical devices 
PG: From face masks, thermometers, pulse oximeters and more, at-home use of consumer medical devices allowed people to safely prevent and monitor symptoms on their own. OTC at-home testing kits are another important area of innovation accelerated by COVID-19. At-home diagnostic devices like these will empower even more self-care.

MG: I agree. Digital technology, like telemedicine and health apps, also made a big leap during COVID-19. Consumers and our healthcare system have embraced the important role that digital health can play to enhance access, promote efficiencies and reduce the costs of health care. Wearable devices, mobile apps and other tools will make healthcare delivery more efficient and personalized. Every business leader is looking at ways to better utilize these technologies in our product offerings and connection to patients, consumers and healthcare professionals. Retailers also recognize this and are already leading with digital healthcare offerings through a mix of virtual and physical healthcare services.

Adjusting to a post-COVID-19 “new normal” 
MG: There’s no going back to the old way of doing business, and the role of self-care will only continue to accelerate. I’m delighted that under Paul’s leadership as CHPA chair we were able to secure enactment of legislation in Congress to modernize the regulatory system that oversees OTC drugs, and to restore the ability of consumers to use their HSA and FSA accounts to purchase OTC medicines. Those are huge accomplishments for self-care that I hope to build upon during my upcoming two-year term as CHPA chair. There’s much work to be done, but we have learned important lessons and secured important wins that will benefit our patients, consumers and the healthcare system in the long-term.

[Read more: CHPA to host virtual regulatory conference]

PG: While my year as CHPA chair was not a typical one, I’m extremely proud of what the industry was able to collectively achieve on behalf of consumers and health care, broadly. We worked separately within our respective companies and together as an industry to keep supply chains open and products on the shelf. We secured important legislative wins that will enhance the safety, availability and affordability of self-care for decades to come, and we began an important board-level initiative to address diversity, equity and inclusion at CHPA and across our industry to help address the complex and long-standing racial equity issues that were front and center this past year. And, I’m especially delighted that Michelle will take over as chair of CHPA, the first female board chair of CHPA in its 140-year history.