A year like no other: PAGB’s review of 2020

Published on: 31 March 2021


As the trade association for the UK consumer healthcare industry for more than a century, PAGB has stood alongside its members through some turbulent times.

But it takes only a quick look through our newly-published annual review, Leading in a new landscape, to confirm that 2020 was in a league of its own.

We entered the year knowing it would end with the UK’s exit from the European Union, one way or another, after more than four years of anticipation.

Like our member companies, we were braced for EU exit to draw heavily on our resources as the most significant event the industry would encounter in a generation.

And then came the pandemic.

As COVID-19 took hold, the Government message quickly became one of self care – people were advised to treat any symptoms of the infection at home as far as possible.

Lockdown restrictions prompted people to buy OTC products in previously unseen quantities, leading some retailers to begin limiting sales of OTC analgesics, while at the same time there were issues affecting the availability of certain active pharmaceutical ingredients.

In the face of this extraordinary situation, our member companies did everything they could to maintain supplies and we did everything we could to support them, speaking on their behalf at meetings with Government ministers, officials and regulators and exploring practical solutions to ensure continued access to self care products.

There were positives to be found: the NHS adopted innovative ways of working at record speed, often using digital tools, and many people reassessed their own approach to health services with a view to reducing pressure on precious NHS resources.

Our 2020 survey found a significant number of respondents were more likely to consider self care as a first option for minor ailments after the pandemic and we hope this shift will be embedded, with the support of policymakers, so that those with serious and long-term conditions can more easily access the expert help they need.

Our CEO, Michelle Riddalls – who took up her role just days after the UK went into its first national lockdown in March 2020 – drew on her expertise in regulatory affairs to steer PAGB’s response to both EU exit and COVID-19.

In our review of 2020, Michelle shares her reflections on a year which left its mark on us all, both professionally and personally, but did not stop PAGB from making progress – against the odds – towards our strategic goals.