Self Regulation – Maintaining High Standards in the Industry

Published on: 1 April 2019

Celebrating 100 years of consumer healthcare spotlight header image

Why history matters?

This is a question at the heart of this piece, which is our contribution to the series dedicated to the centenary of PAGB. We have gone back in time and history and have looked at the milestones of the Industry and AESGP to fully appreciate what we have achieved together and not to miss important context as we look at the future.


It all started 55 years ago as PAGB, together with several other national associations (namely French, Belgian, Swiss, German, Dutch and Italian) representing proprietary medicines manufacturers, came together and established AESGP. Frederick G. Razzell from PAGB served as the 4th AESGP President from 1974 to 1975. At that time, only a few appreciated the importance of coordination of the sector and the role AESGP would play in the future.


AESGP contributed significantly to the adoption of the directives on pharmaceutical advertising and classification, and by that, the separation of medicines into prescription and non-prescription status in the early part of the 1990s. This was hugely inspired by the UK’s Medicines Act of 1968 and long-standing tradition of self-regulation in advertising led by PAGB. That laid down the grounds for development of self care in all parts of Europe.

In 1995 AESGP was one of the first European Associations to organise a members’ meeting in London when the European Community’s new marketing authorisation system came into operation and the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (Europeans Medicines Agency as it is known today) was opened at Canary Wharf, London. Sheila Kelly, Executive Director of PAGB chaired the session entitled ‘The new marketing authorization system: Self-medication without frontiers?’ which brought together regulators and AESGP members. Those meetings have since become a long-standing tradition.

Another significant development for AESGP and PAGB came in the early 2000s with enlargement of the scope of the Associations, namely by the addition of food supplements and more recently (2010s), self care medical devices categories.

Today is no different from the past, as significant changes are happening in the self care environment at a substantial pace. Individual awareness of health issues, high connectivity and access to mobile technologies, more personal focus on fitness and wellbeing, demand for sustainable products – are just a few of the drivers for change. Especially important are the developments in the digital space including the rise of a new communication channel of social media, growing share of e-commerce channels and the impact of big data and artificial intelligence in healthcare delivery and regulatory science. These are new roads for opportunity and disruption, and the biggest change is that the roads are no longer one way.

The above-mentioned challenges and opportunities inspired and guided us throughout 2018 when we developed the AESGP Strategy for 2019-2022. It was an exciting journey for many of us involved, which resulted in a roadmap that will take us through the next four years as we embrace change and move self care forward. Self care remains an underutilised and undervalued public health resource by governments and EU institutions. During these challenging times with the rising burden of chronic diseases, workforce shortages and scarce public resources, etc. we must act and position self care among the essential resources to European health systems. At the core of AESGP we continue to proactively shape the regulatory, legislative, political and economic framework where the consumer healthcare industry operates. We focus on non-prescription medicines, self care medical devices including digital devices and food supplements and will build on cross-category expertise that is at the heart of our mission. We continue to build trust in self care and our industry and remain accountable to our stakeholders. Finally, we seize the opportunity to focus intently on strengthening and developing a holistic network encompassing all relevant stakeholders and serve as a platform for Member Associations, including PAGB. We aim to build on the strengths and best practice of our members to deliver on our mission.

2019 is a significant year in many respects for PAGB and AESGP. It is not only about celebrating 100- and 55-year anniversaries respectively, but also a year of great uncertainty with the Brexit cloud hanging over all of us. For everyone in the industry, as well personally we hope this is not the end of a long-standing relationship, but rather the beginning of a new century of close and fruitful collaboration.

We begin 2019 in an environment of change, but with a steady focus on our mission to advance responsible self care, enabling citizens to take better care of their health needs and contribute to the sustainability of European health care systems. Its value is inherent to health care systems, and its importance undeniable beyond borders.


By Jurate Svarcaite and Maud Perrudin, AESGP’s Leadership Team