Brazil: The Challenges and Opportunities of Selling Consumer Health

Special Report: Global economic prospects for 2011 – 29 April 2011

Brazil continues to rise in the Consumer Health global scene. Good economic performance and improved household incomes promote a higher standard of living, yet stringent regulatory actions and fierce industry consolidation impacts the development and prospects in Consumer Health.

The largest market in Latin America and fifth largest in the world

Brazil ranked fifth in the global retail sales of consumer health with a 4% value share in 2010. It is the number one market in Latin America with US$7.6 billion in retail sales. The robust growth (13%) of consumer health retail value sales in 2010 are derived from low-income and rural consumers improving their household income and becoming exposed to more information about health, and from an active industry expanding their operations and distribution networks across the country.

The Brazilian regulatory conundrum

Two of the major concerns of Brazilian regulators are the intoxication and irrational use of medicines prevailing among the population. Starting in 2008 the regulatory agency, Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA), commenced a thorough revision of the regulatory environment to improve and secure the safety of the Brazilian people.

ANVISA’s challenge is how to effectively communicate the benefits vs. risks of self-medication to consumers. Authorities believe that many Brazilians remain unaware of the negative side effects of some over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Regulators found that many of these consumers still find it difficult to comprehend and follow the directions established in the label and packaging of the product. Recent regulations addressing this particular problem include resolution RDC No. 96/08 requiring all the advertising of drugs to include the warning of “the use of medicines can bring up risks. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist. Read the directions.”

In the pharmacy or drugstore setting, resolution RDC No. 44/09 was established in late 2009 to restrict self-service sales of OTC drugs in pharmacies and drugstores (farmácias and drogarias). Only dietary supplements and a few OTC medicated skin care options remain available for self-service sales. Retailers are required to post a visible and legible warning of “medication can cause undesirable effects. Avoid self-medication and instead consult with your pharmacist.”

Opportunities and challenges ahead

The ANVISA’s regulations preventing consumers from having easier access to OTC drugs is going to make it more difficult for consumers to see the products, compare two or more brands, or totally rely on the pharmacist’s opinion. As the regulation is not likely to change in the near future, herbal/traditional products and dietary supplements known as “fitoterápicos” will see better sales prospects in upcoming years as they face less regulation when compared to OTC drugs. For example, many herbal/traditional products and dietary supplements are not subject to self-service sales restrictions in pharmacies and drugstores, so consumers can easily see and access the products.