Need for self-care as cost-cutting tool will take $21 billion OTC industry higher

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — Even as Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that mandating all Americans buy healthcare insurance was akin to Big Government saying to Joe Consumer, "Hey, eat your broccoli," one underlying theme became apparent: Health care isn't cheap and won't be getting any cheaper — unless everybody does in fact eat their broccoli. And that makes the value inherent in self-care, the cost-savings readily associated with the use of over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplements, an evergreen proposition. Already more than 2% growth to $21.4 billion? Doesn't matter what shape Obamacare's health reform takes, OTC will be a big winner going forward.

(THE NEWS: Kline unveils 2011 drivers of U.S. OTC market. For the full story, click here.)

As bureaucrats attempt to balance the needs of a nation on a pinnacle of health care, on the ground floor the market is what's pushing more consumers toward lower-cost, consumer-directed health care. And that's thanks to a number of factors, including, but not limited to, advancements in communication technology — there's an app for that — employers turning to wellness and prevention for healthcare cost savings, the proliferation of clinical offerings in a retail setting (e.g., pharmacist-delivered vaccinations, retail clnics) and Rx-to-OTC switch, a cost-savings driver around which the Food and Drug Administration just last week held a public meeting to discuss how to make more medicines available without a prescription through the use of that technology and to take advantage of that proliferation in clinical offerings.

And that techno-clinical marriage may be a lot closer to producing a viable switch candidate than you might think. The technology already exists (check out Continua Health or next year's Consumer Electronics Show). The clinical environment already is established and hungry for innovation (Retail Clinician Education Congress). And all it's going to take to really get this new paradigm off the floor is that first spark. And that's when the business of over-the-counter medicines really begins to take off.

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