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TGA consumer survey 2018

20 December 2018

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Executive summary

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) conducted a survey of Australian adults in June and July 2018. The survey employed a dual sampling methodology comprising a quota driven population based sample and an Opt-in methodology where the sample was sourced through known TGA contacts, networks and consumer stakeholders. A total of 1,729 responses to the survey were recorded during the survey period. The sample includes a mix of the Australian population and includes participation across age, gender, all states and territories and metropolitan and regional locations.

Awareness of the TGA

In the overall sample, awareness of the TGA is observed at 68%, although amongst the population (Panel) sample only one in two participants had heard of the TGA prior to the survey. Awareness in this group is higher amongst older groups, males and those who reside in capital city locations.

Role of the TGA

Those who are aware of the TGA show some general awareness of the focus for TGA regulation. Amongst a list of potential regulatory focus areas, 21% of responses highlighted all of the correct regulatory focus areas. However, amongst this group most also inaccurately selected areas that the TGA does not have a focus upon in its role. Overall, just 7% of participants who are aware of the TGA provided an accurate response here, highlighting a potential opportunity for further education and understanding in the community. Those in the Opt-in sample generally showed a more accurate understanding of the TGA regulatory focus.

Balancing safety and access and Trust in the TGA

Forty five percent (45%) of the overall sample Agree that The TGA gets the balance right between safety for consumers and access to products, while 30% disagree. Agreement is considerably higher in the population (Panel) sample, where 63% agree and only 8% disagree. In the Opt-in sample, a total of 50% disagree and only 28% agree. A similar pattern is observed in relation to trust, with 59% of the overall sample agreeing that they trust the TGA to perform its role ethically and with integrity and one in five disagreeing. The Panel sample shows a higher level of agreement here, with 75% agreement compared to only 46% in the Opt-in sample. Outcomes in the population sample are generally higher amongst older participants and males.

Contact with the TGA

Around one in four of those who indicate awareness of the TGA have been in contact in the last two years. Taking into account those who are not aware of the TGA, around 15% had been in contact during this period. Contact is more likely in the Opt-in sample. Most contact is made via email, phone and website contacts, with few responses highlighting contact via other channels. Across the three major communication channels, 80% of responses are received in ten days or less, with phone enquiries perceived as the most responsive contact method, providing a response in two days or less in two in three cases.

Information service use

In total, 31% of consumers use of one or more TGA information services. The TGA website is the most commonly highlighted use. Service use is higher in the Opt-in sample (57%) compared to the population (Panel) sample, where only 14% of participants highlight having used one or more of the services identified. While used less overall, RSS feed and Twitter services show high levels of frequent use, with more than 4 in 10 users of these services highlighting they use the service Often or All the time.

Communications - satisfaction

Satisfaction with communication is observed at 48% Nett satisfaction and 25% Nett dissatisfaction. Satisfaction across the sample components varies markedly, with 80% of those who have been in contact with the TGA in the population (Panel) sample expressing satisfaction and only 2% expressing dissatisfaction. In contrast, only one in four of the Opt-in sample express satisfaction and 41% are dissatisfied.

TGA website

Reported use of resources on the TGA website identifies Fact sheets and Search functions as the most commonly utilised tools. Generally where these are used they are perceived as at least somewhat useful. Satisfaction with a range of characteristics of the website is generally high amongst the population (Panel) sample, with more than 70% Nett satisfaction across measures focussing on language used, length of content, Ease of navigation and look and feel and overall satisfaction with the website at 84%. In contrast, those in the Opt-in sample show much lower levels of satisfaction between 39% and 50% and an overall level of Nett satisfaction with the site at 44%.

Feedback and consultation

Responses relating to feedback and consultation mechanisms reflect a general lack of direct engagement with TGA, with Neither and Not applicable responses accounting for large proportions across all measures here. Amongst those who either agree or disagree with the statements, the strongest outcome relates to the ability to provide feedback.

Other measures here all reflect opportunities for development and engagement, including listening to feedback, timely consultation, and providing opportunities to input into key decisions. Generally, those in the Opt-in sample view these areas negatively, with disagreement levels higher than agreement levels across each of these measures. In contrast, population (Panel) participants were generally more positive, with minimal disagreement observed. In particular, younger people in this sample provided particularly positive feedback in this area.

Attitudes toward medicines and complementary medicines were tracked in the survey via agreement with a series of statements.

Medicines

Across eight statements relating to medicines Nett agreement outweighs Nett disagreement in all cases. The strongest levels of agreement is observed in relation to confidence that The medicines I buy are genuine (71% Nett agreement) and Medicines are manufactured to a high standard (70%). Trust in medicines available in pharmacies (Nett agreement 69%) is higher than for supermarket medicines (45%). Confidence that the government monitors medicines to identify safety issues (64% Nett agreement), agreement that prescription medicines are appropriately regulated (61%) and belief that the risks of medicines are balanced against their positive impact (62%) show similar levels of agreement at just over six in ten participants. The response to the statement Prescription medicines are safe shows the lowest level of agreement (54%). For a number of these measures there is a substantial level of disagreement on the statements identified, notably in relation to trust the medicines available in supermarkets (20% Nett disagreement), Prescription medicines are safe (18%), Prescription medicines are appropriately regulated (16%) and that the risks of medicines are balanced against their positive impact (16%).

Consistent with other areas in the survey, those in the population (Panel) sample are generally more positive across the range of measures here, with nett agreement across the range of measures well above those in the Opt-in sample. Interestingly, across the samples there is marked discrepancy within age categories, with older participants in the population sample showing higher levels of agreement across all measures except trust in supermarket medicines (where the youngest participants show the highest level of agreement). For the Opt-in sample the pattern is generally reversed, with the youngest participants showing the highest level of agreement across most measures. Males and those in capital city locations in this sample also express generally more positive views. Across the entire sample, those who have experienced side effects in response to a medicine or medical device are markedly less likely to agree across all statements presented.

Complementary medicines

Agreement across the range of statements relating to complementary medicines is generally lower than outcomes for medicines. Across the five measures tracked, Nett agreement is generally consistently low. One third of participants agree that Complementary medicines are safe (34% Nett agree; 22% Nett disagree), I trust complementary medicines (33% Nett agree; 31% Nett disagree), I trust the government monitors complementary medicines to identify safety issues (33% Nett agree; 33% Nett disagree) and that I am confident that complementary medicines are manufactured to a high standard (32% Nett agree; 29% Nett disagree). The final measure here, Complementary medicines are appropriately regulated, shows very high disagreement and low agreement (Nett agreement 26%; Nett disagreement 38%). While agreement is higher than disagreement across most measures, the outcomes here highlight a general lack of faith in the safety and quality of complementary medicines. An ongoing focus on addressing and responding to consumer concerns in this area is recommended.

Across the sample sources in the survey those in the population (Panel) sample show higher levels of agreement; however overall agreement levels in both groups are generally low across the range of measures and are accompanied by substantial levels of disagreement. Across both samples, younger people tend to more commonly agree with the statements. Females in the Opt-in sample also show a higher tendency to agree across the range of statements. Consistent with the outcomes for questions focussed on medicines, those who have experienced a side effect less commonly agree with the statements relating to complementary medicines.

Receiving information

Around 85% of respondents to a question about interest in receiving information highlight an interest in one or more information source. The most commonly identified areas of interest are product recalls, safety information, reporting of problems or side effects and general information about the TGA.

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