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12/29/2022

How is tripledemic affecting OTC sales of flu, RSV remedies?

Catalina’s Shopper Intelligence data shows a sharp increase in OTC flu, RSV treatment unit sales as prices rise.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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The U.S. “tripledemic” is in full swing causing unit sales of over-the-counter treatment categories to rise by as much as 69%, according to Catalina’s Shopper Intelligence Platform.

New COVID variants, an early and more serious flu season, plus a sharp uptick of respiratory virus infections contributed to OTC cough, cold, RSV and flu symptom-related products climbing an average of 19% for October-November 2022 compared to the same period a year ago. These categories were outliers to the overall OTC category, which fell 3% for the same period.

The report said that shoppers mostly stick to brand names to fight tripledemic symptoms.

[Read more: Retailers providing updated COVID-19 bivalent vaccine to children]

The average price for these categories rose 12%, trending higher than the overall U.S. Consumer Price Index at 7% for November 2022. Overall, inflation and related price increases have had little impact on virus product categories. The percentage of units sold that are private label decreased slightly for several OTC categories compared to the prior year. Exceptions are Children’s Analgesics and Children’s Cough & Cold, which saw slight increases for private label during a period when several news organizations have been reporting shortages around the country, likely fueling a small flurry of panic buying.

In looking at Google Trends, searches pertaining to flu and respiratory virus infections increased significantly in October, mirroring unit sales of potential treatments and remedies. Interestingly, inquiries related to COVID were relatively flat as sales within the at-home testing kit/face mask category dropped 45%.

[Read more: Walgreens offering flu, COVID-19 testing in single visit at over 5,000 locations]

“Sales of home COVID testing kits may have dropped as consumers become less vigilant about spreading the virus and the federal government continues to provide free home kits. Following the large social gatherings that accompany yearend holidays, Catalina expects to see an uptick in kit purchases when an expected surge in cases follows in January,” said Sean Murphy, chief data & analytics officer at Catalina. “While RSV rates have started to fall, the flu season is expected to last through February 2023, so the overall ‘tripledemic’ will continue to have an impact on OTC shopper behavior well into the New Year.”

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