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Podcast – How I’m helping women to take charge of their health

Anna Maxwell, founder and CEO of pharma company Maxwellia, reveals how she has helped close the gender health gap and why making some medicines available over the counter can improve self-care, in the latest episode of the A Coffee With… podcast series

July 2021 hailed a new dawn for women’s healthcare. In that month, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency authorised the prescription-only medicine (POM) to pharmacy (P) medicine switch of two brands of desogestrel contraceptive pills, Lovima and Hana.

The “liberation” of the Lovima pill – as manufacturer Maxwellia refers to the status switch – received a “brilliant” response, Ms Maxwell tells C+D’s reporter Emily Stearn in the podcast (listen below).

“We know that over a third of women find it very difficult to access their pill,” she adds. But having it available as a P medicine offers “choice and convenience”, Ms Maxwell says.

“It’s a really great opportunity for pharmacy. It’s a huge category with huge potential,” she adds.


Read more: Podcast – How I’m helping pharmacy become greener


In a career spanning over 35 years, Ms Maxwell has been at the centre of key status switches – such as those for nicotine gums and antihistamines – and key developments in pharmacy.

Beginning her career as a pharmacy manager at Boots, she then became an over-the-counter buyer for the multiple.

Six years as chief pharmacist and marketing and sales director at natural remedies manufacturer Nelsons followed, before she joined the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, where she was marketing director for five years.

Ms Maxwell launched Maxwellia in 2013, while she was working as managing director of healthcare marketing consultancy company Fizz Marketing Management – a position she held for just over nine years.

Maxwellia specialises in identifying POM products that meet an unmet healthcare need in society, guiding their status switch to make them available over the counter.

Ms Maxwell – who in 2013 also published a guide to the reclassification of medicines, Switch Dynamics – tells C+D: “There was a real opportunity for me to set up a company that was dedicated and purpose-built to do switching, so that we can actually harvest the off-patent portfolio of prescription medicines.”



But why does she feel switching is so important? “There’s a huge back catalogue of medicines that are now in generic state that, I believe, have real potential to create new self-care medicines,” she says.

She believes it is “really important” to widen access to medicines and, as a consequence, “broaden the role of the pharmacist” as they are given access to new products and categories that they can use to treat people in a self-care setting.

Pharmacists must “realise the mountain of value that they’re standing on, and how they have become the front door of the NHS”, she says.

“People absolutely value their service and their experience. I think we’ve come towards more of a culture where people are prepared to pay for good services and good advice. I think that pharmacy will do well to embrace the innovations that the consumer healthcare companies are bringing.”


Read more: Podcast – Why pharmacy needs more female leaders and leaders of colour


“Women’s health is clearly an area that has been poorly served, and that is now being recognised by everybody,” Ms Maxwell tells C+D.

More recently, a renewed interest in women’s health has resulted in the introduction of contraceptive pilots in England and Scotland.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, a range of multiples cut the price of their generic emergency hormonal contraception.

However, while Ms Maxwell agrees that pilots can benefit “certain cohorts of the population”, they can be “administratively heavy and in some instances put women through tests or checks that are not really necessary”.

“We want women to be less embarrassed and feel more comfortable about being able to walk into a pharmacy and talk to somebody about their condition,” she argues.


Listen to the podcast to find out more about:

  • the benefits of widening access to medicines
  • the process of publishing ‘Switch Dynamics’
  • how the pandemic has changed how women’s health is recognised
  • Ms Maxwell's vision for Maxwellia and future product launches.


You can listen to the podcast above. Alternatively, follow C+D’s podcasts by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred app or on Soundcloud


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