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OTC products give patients greater control over sexual health matters

As Sexual Health Week kicks off with a campaign focused on consent, it’s clear that empowerment and ownership of sexual health self-care are gaining momentum and marking a place in the history of sexual health’s evolution.

Nick Burgoyne

Author: Nick Burgoyne

Client Services Director

Date posted: 15/09/2021

Milestones of progress in sexual and reproductive health marked the 20th century, but its middle saw some of the most radical changes in culture, attitude and law. By the 1960s, a woman’s sexual pleasure was no longer confined within the walls of heterosexual marriage, marking a decisive break with the sexual codes of the past. In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic served as an agonising crucible for acceptance of the gay rights movement. And, for sufferers of erectile dysfunction, the 1990s delivered a miracle cure with the launch of Viagra.

The 21st century has kept up the momentum: with the ability to date online, a vaccination for HPV and the recent #MeToo movement, we are more in control than ever of our sexual health and well-being. But with great power, comes great responsibility. By bringing this responsibility for well-being to the individual, we are now reliant on quick, friendly, accessible resources – like our pharmacists.

Pharmacists have long been the go-to for more taboo subjects, especially where someone doesn’t want to see their family GP. Now their role as a community healthcare advisor is only being accelerated by the launch of several POM to P medicines. Now, we have greater control over matters like emergency contraception and sexual dysfunction – a positive step for self-confidence and well-being.

ellaOne placed empowerment firmly at the centre of their award-winning ‘My Morning After’ campaign message. By recognising that people want to be proactive about their sexual health, products such as ellaOne give women choices about what to do with their own bodies.

Similarly, the recently launched OTC contraceptive pill Hana, is all about putting people in control in an easy way, reinforcing the idea that young people now have the ability to make their own decisions, and avoid any perceived judgment from or even embarrassment at visiting a GP.

A survey by PAGB reported that one in three people are more likely to use a pharmacist as a first port of call for health advice post the pandemic, and an NPA survey found 87% of people think their local pharmacy is now the best way to obtain healthcare advice. With a rise in people using pharmacists, as well as more medicines being moved from prescription-only to over-the-counter, pharmacists are looking to brands to bring them the evidence.

To get the right products to the right people, the pharmacist must now understand both the product and the user. This means marketers need to consider both the expert and the user in one pitch. Gaining insight from both groups to craft a strong message that touches hearts and minds alike, is crucial.

It’s not as simple as tweaking a consumer-facing campaign. Science matters. This means research and data need to sit at the centre of each campaign, building trust and credibility with brands. End users will now also be looking for this data in the advertising, as the decision they are making is their own and they want to be armed with easy-to-digest, good-quality and understandable science – all to help them in that decision-making process, particularly when faced with a milestone moment.

At Purple, we understand the value of insight, and the unique and ever-changing landscape of over-the-counter medicine. Our team are experts at creating evidence-based campaigns that reach HCPs in exactly the way you need them to.

To find out more about communications that actually work, visit our Purple Health page here or contact