ROUNDTABLE: Improving patient outcomes, controlling costs with OTCs


More Americans are more often seeking their ounce of prevention. According to Bain & Co.’s recent Healthy Living Survey, 75% of consumers are in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. Take that predominant mindset, coupled with the outcomes-driven preventive focus associated with the Affordable Care Act, and you have a formula for OTC success at retail pharmacy.

To get a better sense of how OTC brands are helping to improve patient outcomes and drive down healthcare costs, DSN invited some leading OTC executives to share their opinions on the value of OTCs.

How do you create value in your OTC portfolio considering retailers and health systems are looking for ways to improve patient outcomes and control healthcare costs?


T.J. Higgins, president Pfizer Consumer Healthcare North American

Over-the-counter medicines play a vital role in consumer health and wellness, enabling consumers to routinely and effectively manage conditions like muscle pain, allergies, headaches, cold and cough, heartburn and gastrointestinal disorders. Broad availability of OTC medicines empowers consumers to quickly and affordably access treatments when and where they need them, enabling them to live healthier, more productive lives. Pfizer’s effort to move products from prescription to OTC status is a core business imperative and includes a robust R&D program to deliver value and increase consumer access to safe and effective therapies that significantly improve lives.

Pfizer Consumer Healthcare is among the largest over-the-counter healthcare products companies in the world, with a global footprint of operations in more than 90 countries. We maintain leadership positions in many markets and sell two of the top 10 global brands — Advil and Centrum.  PCH develops, manufactures and markets leading nonprescription medicines, vitamins and nutritional products. We strive to bring new and better solutions to market that help consumers around the world support their health and enhance personal well-being. Pfizer’s efforts to expand OTC options represent another chapter in the company’s innovation to significantly improve the lives of patients and bring added value to consumers, healthcare professionals and the public health system overall.

PCH drives growth through major global brands, including Centrum (the world’s No. 1 multivitamin), Caltrate (the world’s No. 1 calcium supplement) and Advil (the world’s No. 1 ibuprofen analgesic brand). The division’s major categories consist of pain management, dietary supplements, respiratory and personal care.


Brian McNamara, division head of Novartis OTC

At Novartis Consumer Health, we believe in the power of our OTC brands to help consumers around the world take care of themselves and their families to live healthy lives. Creating accessible and affordable medicines that provide the best patient outcomes is a conscious investment and continuous journey that we endeavor with retail partners and health authorities globally.
We start by listening to consumers, like giving headache and migraine sufferers a simple way to share information via the US Excedrin Facebook page. It also means acting on what we hear, like innovating a longer-lasting formulation of our pain-relieving Voltaren gel so that people can get through the day without having to worry about their pain returning.
Our products are science-based and benefit-driven. And as part of greater Novartis, we have access to experts and opportunities that can drive our innovation — collaborating with our colleagues at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, for example, or working with our pharmaceuticals division to determine potential Rx-to-OTC switches within the Novartis portfolio.
We also know that retailers, particularly in the United States, want partners who can provide the latest shopper marketing techniques and insights. We invest in these capabilities by regularly conducting shopper research studies and sharing our information with retailers so together we can provide the best OTC solutions that address consumers’ needs.
When it comes to curtailing healthcare costs, we know the impact of OTCs and the valuable role self-care plays within healthcare systems. In the United States alone, OTC medicines contribute $102 billion worth of savings in the healthcare system every year.* With trusted and efficacious brands like Excedrin  and Triaminic, we know we’re doing our part to improve health and create value.

*Source:  “The Value of OTC Medicine to the United States,” Booz & Co., Jan. 2012


Tim Toll
, executive VP sales
 at Pharmavite

Pharmavite believes that consumers need to be encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes balanced diet, exercise and supplements. However, nutrient shortfalls are a reality for most Americans. Dietary supplements are a tool, along with food, that can help consumers optimize nutrient intake when their diets fall short of their nutrient needs. 

According to the latest NHANES data (2010), most Americans fall short of essential nutrients, such as vitamins C and D, calcium, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids. Supplements may be necessary to optimize intake of certain nutrients.

Pharmavite is working to actively educate pharmacists and other allied healthcare professionals on ways to help guide their patients when choosing supplements. It is extremely important that healthcare professionals assess nutrient intake from food, fortified food and supplements in order to decide how to help consumers optimize nutrient value. 

Nature Made’s portfolio of high-quality products offers solutions to consumers to meet almost every nutrient need they may have.


Gary Downing, CEO at Insight Pharmaceuticals

At Insight, the rapid pace of healthcare change has significant impact on our brand discussions and new product strategies as we seek better ways to serve the healthcare needs of consumers. Insight has a diverse OTC portfolio and as the No. 1 nonprescription women’s healthcare company, we understand over-the-counter offerings have an opportunity to play an even greater role in patient’s health. This is particularly true when there are OTC treatment options available that are as effective as prescription options. 

For example, Monistat offers women a self-treatment option for vaginal yeast infections with an OTC medicine that starts providing relief significantly faster than the leading prescription treatment — and is just as effective. As wait times for doctors’ visits continue to grow, highly effective nonprescription treatment options provide a significant value to suffering patients. Women also want to be better informed and take greater control of their health. Therefore, companies like Insight have an opportunity to better educate the public and provide a greater range of preventive and self-use diagnostic tools.   On Monistat, we’ve recently launched a Vaginal Health Test to help symptomatic women determine if they have an elevated vaginal pH, which is a sign of a vaginal infection caused by something other than yeast. This product helps us to educate women that there are other types of infections and helps women to better discern when they may need a physician’s care.    

With Uristat, we relaunched the brand with the first combination pack of its kind to include a test strip that confirms the presence of a urinary tract infection and pain tablets for immediate relief should she have to wait on a prescription.  As health care continues to evolve, OTC companies have a significant opportunity to play a greater leadership role in educating the patient, providing effective treatment options and promoting preventive care.


Nick Rini, VP global sales at i-Health

We realize the increased consumer interest in preventive care solutions due to the rise of modern health issues, increasing costs and needs.  We are committed to improving the lives of our consumers through innovative and effective natural and over-the-counter consumer health products in digestion, women’s health, brain health and immunity. We create products based on the consumer need that are supported by science and are offered at a value that encourages consumers to continue with the regimen enhancing their lives and their overall health.



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IRI shares best practices for Rx-to-OTC switch

BY Ryan Chavis

CHICAGO and ORLANDO, Fla. — Prescription and over-the-counter products are often the first remedy consumers turn to when seeking relief from such conditions as allergies and heartburn, according to IRI. In its latest report, "Best Practices for Rx-to-OTC Product Launches," the company offers some tactics to help drive success for companies looking to execute the category switch.

“When studying Rx-to-OTC switches, we found that order of entry is one factor, but it is not necessarily the driving factor for success,” said Robert Sanders, EVP and healthcare practice leader at IRI. “More specifically, the concept of an unmet consumer need continues to trump many of the other variables.”

The report takes a closer look at previous Rx-to-OTC product launches and gathers best practices to adhere to, as well as some missteps to avoid.

“We know that a new wave of Rx-to-OTC products will drive OTC growth in the long term,” Sanders said. “Lessons learned from previous case studies will help maximize success for future brands as they move into this space.”

To download the free report, click here.



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Study suggests calcium, vitamin D helps postmenopausal women lower cholesterol

BY Antoinette Alexander

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A new study suggests that calcium and vitamin D supplements after menopause can improve women’s cholesterol profiles, and much of that effect is tied to raising vitamin D levels.

The study is from the Women’s Health Initiative and was recently published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.

The study, "Calcium/vitamin D supplementation, serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and cholesterol profiles in the Women’s Health Initiative calcium/vitamin D randomized trial," will be published in the August 2014 print edition of Menopause.

Whether calcium or vitamin D can indeed improve cholesterol levels has been debated. Studies of women taking the combination could not separate the effects of calcium from those of vitamin D on cholesterol. However, this study, led by NAMS board of trustees member Peter Schnatz is helping to settle those questions because it looked both at how a calcium and vitamin D supplement changed cholesterol levels and how it affected blood levels of vitamin D in postmenopausal women.

Daily, the women in the WHI CaD trial took either a supplement containing 1,000 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D3 or a placebo. This analysis looked at the relationship between taking supplements and levels of vitamin D and cholesterol in some 600 of the women who had both their cholesterol levels and their vitamin D levels measured.

The women who took the supplement were more than twice as likely to have vitamin D levels of at least 30 ng/mL (i.e., normal according to the Institute of Medicine), as were the women who took the placebo.

Supplement users also had low-density lipoprotein (LDL — the "bad" cholesterol) levels that were between four and five points lower. The investigators discovered, in addition, that among supplement users, those with higher blood levels of vitamin D had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL — the "good" cholesterol) and lower levels of triglycerides (although for triglycerides to be lower, blood levels of vitamin D had to reach a threshold of about 15 ng/mL).

Taking the calcium and vitamin D supplements was especially helpful in raising vitamin D levels in women who were older, women who had a low intake and women who had levels first measured in the winter. But lifestyle also made a difference. The supplements also did more to raise vitamin D levels in women who did not smoke and who drank less alcohol.

Whether these positive effects of supplemental calcium and vitamin D on cholesterol will translate into such benefits as lower rates of cardiovascular disease for women after menopause remains to be seen, but these results, said the authors, are a good reminder that women at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency should consider taking calcium and vitamin D.


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