SymphonyIRI: Consumers turn to OTCs to curb healthcare costs

CHICAGO Spurred by a difficult economy, over-the-counter medications increasingly are playing a dual role for consumers looking to minimize healthcare expenditures, the SymphonyIRI Group found in a new research paper titled “Over-the-Counter Medications: State of the Industry 2010” that was released last week.


“The down economy has reinforced and escalated consumers’ quest for ‘the good life,’” stated Susan Sakach, SVP healthcare solutions at SymphonyIRI. “Consumers have long worked to establish and maintain wellness in order to have a high quality of life; however, today they are motivated by something else, too. Consumers are looking to stay well in order to alleviate burdensome medical expenses.”



This has prompted greater interest in self-care — more than one-third of consumers today are visiting the doctor less frequently and self-treating to save on medical expenses. Nearly all of these consumers (88%) will continue to do so even as the economy improves, SymphonyIRI found. 



This has generated a greater consumer interest in overall nutrition, for example, with 74% of consumers indicating they are trying to eat better these days. While many consumers are using nutrition to achieve a specific goal, such as losing weight or controlling a special condition, 81% of consumers indicated that they are eating better because they want to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary medical expenses.



Along with the greatest interest in overall nutrition comes an increasing awareness around supplementing a diet with vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. Two-thirds of consumers regularly use vitamins, while one-quarter and one-third of consumers take herbal supplements and omega-3s, respectively, SymphonyIRI found.



Prevention similarly is a common theme among OTC consumers. For instance, 16% of consumers indicated they take allergy medication to prevent allergies even though proactively taking allergy medication simply treats symptoms but doesn’t actually prevent an allergy. This disconnect is one example of an opportunity for allergy medication manufacturers to educate consumers about true prevention strategies, SymphonyIRI suggested.



“For many consumers, OTC medications are a tool that allows them to maintain their hectic schedules despite having a chronic condition, such as allergies, or acute ailments, such as achy muscles,” Sakach said. “OTC marketers are wise to consider this perspective when developing their communication strategy. Education provides fo another level of communication with consumers.”



SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar called “Over-the-Counter Medications: State of the Industry 2010,” on Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. EST. Click here to register.


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