A 2.4% growth rate across nonprescription medicines certainly speaks volumes to the value of self-care, especially when you put that growth into a little bit of context — sales of prescription medicines only climbed 1.3% in 2008, according to IMS Health. To be sure, the prescription drug dollar volume may be some 15 times greater than that of OTC, but it certainly supports the conclusions of a February Kaiser Family Foundation survey — that 35% of consumers “relied on home remedies or over-the-counter drugs instead of going to see a doctor.”
Private-label OTC medicines were tracking 8.2% higher as compared with 2007, which speaks to the value of that self-care in a depressed economy. So not only is the out-of-work, healthcare-crunched consumer selecting lower cost nonprescription treatments over the co-pays of their doctor visits and three-tiered prescription drug plans, but they’re also reaching right past the branded option for the cheaper national brand equivalent.
So what does it mean? It means pharmacists need to be aware of this economically-driven trend so that they can a) better advise their patients as to appropriate OTC solutions, and b) help their patients identify less-costly prescriptions, generics for example, when those OTC substitutions may be less than ideal.
And it means now, more than ever, OTC manufacturers need to focus on innovative product introductions, and soon. Because as important as private label penetration is to a retailer, store brands don’t drive top line sales.