10 Truths of OTC No. 2: OTC isn’t actually in the pharmacy business
Truth 2: OTC isn't actually in the pharmacy business
The first piece of this series looked at the OTC sector’s delicate health. With switch blockbusters stripped out, growth is flat at best, or even declining. There are several reasons for this, which will be examined in the coming weeks.
The first, and most important reason, is OTC’s failure to deeply understand that the success of any branded product rests on providing consumers with a clear, compelling reason to buy it. Even if it’s better on every objective performance benchmark, it’s all for nothing if consumers don’t believe it.
That’s because a brand is far more than its name or logo. It’s what people know and feel about the brand based on every interaction they have with it. It’s about perception, a constantly moving target.
This is a given in the wider consumer goods industry, spurring on innovation and creativity between branded products and private labels. But OTC doesn’t seem to acknowledge an essential truth – OTC is in the consumer business, not the pharma business. It’s not selling drugs, it is selling brands.
We regularly attend global OTC conferences and most delegates are downright surprised to see us there. Brand design is considered an afterthought, or even irrelevancy, to OTC "business as usual." Businesses invent traditional products first, then try to make consumers buy them. Brand design, packaging, and communications fall way down a strictly linear commercial pipeline.
OTC’s regulatory aspects and safety standards are undeniably challenging to brand building, but it’s not optional. Consumers are increasingly disloyal, demanding, knowledgeable and in love with the exciting and new. Novelty is the No. 1 purchase driver for new products in the USA, according to Nielsen’s 2015 research study "Looking to achieve new product success?'.
And that’s also true of OTC. Kline Group’s annual Nonprescription Drugs USA report finds niche players like Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical’s Salonpas and Matrixx’s Zicam posting 10%-20% YoY growth, with big brands flat or losing ground. No brand is immune to this, even historically dominant molecule-led ones with fantastic efficacy claims.
This trend is underpinned by the fact that pills and potions are falling out of favor. Consumers are now concerned about what they put inside their bodies, and an aging demographic taking more medications is at greater risk of adverse drug interactions. As a result, novel self-medication formats are proliferating.
Recent analgesic innovations include Livia which is iPulse Medical’s menstrual pain reliever, and Cirrus Healthcare’s barometric earplug and app MigraineX. Beyond pain, Philip’s Blue Light device targets psoriasis without messy creams. VivoSensMedical’s vaginal biosensor OvulaRing determines when women are most fertile. Wearables THIM and Snore Circle improve sleep quality. And new products launch virtually every week, almost none of them from big "pharma" companies.
Thinking with a pharma mindset might have worked in the 20th century, but 21st century consumers demand products that put them at the heart of everything the brand says and does. Strong, organic market growth requires OTC businesses moving to a brand-first approach – delivering consumer-centric innovations married to compelling, human "reasons to believe."
Over the last 20 years, DewGibbons + Partners has helped design some of the world’s most iconic and successful OTC brands, resulting in a deep appreciation of the visual and physical cues — and regulatory limitations — in the self-care and OTC marketplace. The need to challenge those cues and limits is becoming far more frequent.
The inexorable rise of digital technology and an attitudinal shift towards wellness and prevention finds consumers starting to think very differently about how they manage their health. Many traditional OTC businesses have been very slow to adapt to this, if at all, when compared to consumer product brands.
Nick Vaus and Sara Jones, of DewGibbons + Partners, recently took a step back to look at what works for customers, healthcare practitioners and retailers against a backdrop of wider economic, cultural and digital trends. The result is the "10 Uncomfortable Truths that OTC has to deal with to survive and thrive in the 21st century."
Each week, for the ensuing 10 weeks, Drug Store News will publish one "Uncomfortable Truth" in the DSN Health & Wellness e-newsletter that is disseminated on Tuesday.
The first truth was recognizing there’s a problem in the first place.
Next week's truth concerns the double-edged sword of technology, both a threat and opportunity to OTC purveyors.
Partner and client services director, DewGibbons + Partners
Sara runs DewGibbons + Partners alongside NickVaus, and heads up the client services team, leading branding and communications programmes for household names in OTC and health care. She’s always had a bit of a secret passion for OTC branding. Her Grandma was a pharmacist in London’s West End, leaving her with an abiding curiosity about active ingredients and how medicines work. She’s (in)famous for reading patient information leaflets cover to cover. Email her, follow her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
Partner and creative director, DewGibbons + Partners
As well as running the agency with Sara Jones, Nick leads the studio in providing solutions that are innovative, creative, economic, and effective. Powered by Beautiful Thinking – a unique combination of right and left brain thinking that seamlessly binds together strategy, design and brand communications – he ensures that his clients’ businesses, brands and consumers are at the heart of each and every brief. Email him, follow him on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.
Study: Topical analgesics may be one answer to the opioid crisis
AUSTIN, Texas — Clarity Science, a division of Safe Harbor Compliance and Clinical Services, on Wednesday reported the results of the Institutional Review Board-approved Optimizing Patient Experience and Response to Topical Analgesics (OPERA) Study which evaluated patients with chronic pain who were treated with topical analgesics.
Overall results, published in the Journal of Pain Research, suggest that topical treatments may provide an effective and safer treatment alternative to opioids and prescription NSAIDs for the management of chronic pain.
"The results of this study show that topical analgesics were associated with reductions of up to 60% in the use of concurrent pain medications, including oral opioid analgesics," stated Jeffrey Gudin, lead investigator of the study and director Pain and Palliative Care at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey. "Topical agents have the potential to provide analgesic effects without the risk of abuse, misuse and addiction or systemic adverse events associated with oral analgesics. Also, they lower the risk of systemic AEs and drug-drug interactions, have limited systemic absorption, offer simple-dose determination, provide direct access to the target site and are easy for patients to apply."
Results of the study show that topical treatments are effective and safe for the relief of moderately severe chronic pain associated with arthritis, neuropathic conditions and musculoskeletal disorders while not carrying the same risks of abuse, misuse, addiction or adverse effects associated with some oral treatments. As many as 54% of treated patients in the 3-month group and 60% of treated patients in the 6-month group de-escalated the use of concurrent pain medications compared to 4% and 6% in the untreated groups.
The untreated groups saw an increase in medication usage in 52% of cases (compared to only 10% for the treated group.)
Treated patients reported a preference for topical treatments both for their convenience and ease of use and 99.5% of patients reported no side effects while using the topical treatments.
Callitas Health relaunches ToConceive personal lubricant
CINCINNATI — Callitas Health (formerly M Pharmaceutical) last week announced the market re-launch of ToConceive, a fertility enhancing vaginal gel, lubricant and moisturizer that may aid in creating an optimal environment for natural conception. The newly reformulated moisturizer is now paraben-free to prevent potential negative side effects on hormones and includes only pharmaceutical-grade ingredients to help increase natural lubrication.
The newly re-launched product is Health Canada compliant and has been available for purchase online as of Sept. 29, 2017.
Based on the science behind the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and sperm capacitation, ToConceive was scientifically developed by Ronald Thompson to assist in creating the right environment for conception. ToConceive, in studies, has been shown to help enhance a woman's own natural lubrication, which contains the proteins and other co-factors needed to help conceive naturally.
Acknowledging that approximately 75% of unexplained infertility cases among healthy couples can be traced back to a lack of natural vaginal lubrication, ToConceive provides couples trying to conceive with a natural, non-invasive and cost-effective product. The easy-to-apply patented gel includes key ingredients such as menthol and l-arginine, a naturally occurring amino-acid that help supports the production of nitric oxide, and in turn, may help stimulate blood flow to the vagina and other tissues.
"Recognizing both the financial and emotional burden that many couples experience while trying to conceive, ToConceive provides a cost-effective and minimally invasive option, as well as a community of couples who are undergoing similar journeys," said Lindsey Thompson, director brand management, Callitas Therapeutics. "Callitas Therapeutics is committed to shaping the future of healthcare, and ToConceive is a prime example of an innovative product that is paving-the-way for those seeking fertility assistance."
A 90-day supply of ToConceive is $129.99 and will available for purchase online, the company stated.