Over-the-Counter Drug – Need to Know its Benefits and Detriment

3 min read

OTC medications do not need a doctor’s prescription. This convenience of the consumer enables the direct purchase of medicine and is the prime driving force for accelerating the growth of the OTC drug market across the world. However, there are always two sides of a coin. OTC drugs have led to drug abuse and been a cause for the strengthening of the rules on OTC purchase by the government.

The OTC drug market has grown rapidly over the past few years. Thanks to the major players in the market, such as Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and GSK, focusing on OTC drug development and the conversion of prescription to OTC, the other market players have also been influenced. The diversity of pharmaceutical companies focusing on OTC has helped the market flourish with a faster growth rate.

Nevertheless, there are still many issues that hinder the market’s growth. Many safety problems are inherent to OTC drug purchase. With increasing safety issues, the government has tightened the rules to control OTC drug purchase.

The various benefits and detriment of OTC drugs are discussed below to understand and analyze the OTC drug market:

Time- and Money-saving

As of 2012, there are over 300,000 OTC drugs in the market, and according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), annually a total of 2.9 billion retail tips purchase OTC products. OTC drugs help the patients in saving time that is spent on doctor visits and diagnostics test for minor ailments. Also, this saves money for the consumers, which is needed to visit a physician and on prescription.

Cost-saving by Healthcare Systems

OTC medications reduce the necessity to visit the doctor/physician. This saves resources for the healthcare industry in particular, thereby allowing it to divert its resources to more pressing healthcare issues, which would require physician involvement, such as diagnosis and treatment procedures for serious conditions. OTC medicines provide access to safe medication for nearly 180 million patients, while, at the same time, saving capital for the healthcare industry. Self-care via OTC medications is estimated to contribute to savings as high as USD 5 billion to the taxpayers and consumers in the United States annually. As per CHPA, OTC medication saves around USD 102 billion for the US healthcare system annually.

Self-Control over Health

The OTC medications provide the liberty to patients to eliminate the need to visit a physician or other clinical setting for common ailments. Instead, they can easily procure medications to address their ailment by procuring OTC drugs without a prescription.  According to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, around 81% of the adult population is using OTC medications. It is being helpful in providing symptomatic relief to around 60 million people. The statistics show that the consumers are aware of their health conditions and are paying attention to the treatment. OTC medication helps people meet healthcare needs and empower individuals about health management.

Product Innovation

OTC drugs that can treat multiple symptoms are another example of innovative products. Innovation is also resulting in improved performance, in terms of speed, strength, etc., thus improving the length of the effect. The diversification of the product is also achieved, as targeting different age groups – children, adults, woman, and old people with different products – are emerging and will drive the OTC drug market in future. The manufacturers of OTC target the women group, resorting to angles like pregnancy, weight loss, and even self-expression, which leads to new innovations. Similarly, OTC brands target children groups, with innovative offerings that consider two key drivers: enhancing the fun look and feel, and making it easier for parents to administer the dose to their kids.

Teen OTC Drug Abuse

According to available statistics, around 12% of teenagers have admitted having abused OTC cough syrup. The major abuse of cough-and-cold medicines is seen among the teen population. Other medications include the usage of pseudoephedrine, marijuana, and diet pills. The major reason behind OTC abuse is the lack of education in teens about the dangers associated with OTC drugs. The parents are not well-educated about the adverse effects of OTC drugs, nor do they show interest to take the advice of physicians on this.  This ultimately leads to hazardous causalities that can affect health or even lead to death.

OTC Usage among the Geriatric Population

According to statistics, 40% of the OTC drugs are used by the geriatric population of age 65 and above. The geriatric population suffers from one or more diseases and are always on multiple medications. Sometimes, the OTC drugs purchased can cause the risk of drug interactions, leading to adverse drug effects. Other OTC medications, such as motion sickness pills and painkillers, that are commonly used by the elders cause hallucinations, stomach, and kidney problems, which can be considered as dangerous side effects for the geriatric population.

OTC Usage in the Pregnant Population

Most of OTC drug labels carry the precaution about whether it can be used by pregnant women or not. However, due to negligence, people tend to use OTC drugs without proper knowledge, which may lead to life-threating situations. OTC drugs, such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen, should be avoided during the pregnancy, as they have shown adverse effects on unborn children or complications during delivery.

OTC Drugs through the Internet

With the development of the internet technology, medicines are now available at the doors. Sexual performance medicines are one of the products that are sold through the internet at a high rate. These medicines are used on over-dosages and are usually taken along with the alcohol. Research shows that sexual medicines have a reverse effect on sexual performance, when taken in combination with alcohol and can cause major heart problems.

In every seed of good, there is always a piece of bad—the saying goes the same with OTC drugs. But, with care, such as proper consultation, reading of labeling and acquiring the knowledge, the disadvantages associated with OTC drugs can be avoided and will help achieve a healthy and cost-effective treatment.

Nayani
Nayani Nayani is working as a Research Associate with the Mordor Intelligence, a market research and consulting firm based in Hyderabad, India, with expertise in accurate research and analysis in Healthcare.
Nayani Nayani is working as a Research Associate with the Mordor Intelligence, a market research and consulting firm based in Hyderabad, India, with expertise in accurate research and analysis in Healthcare.  

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