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OTC remedies see growth as consumers turn to self care

BY Michael Johnsen

The recession economy has been a constant theme for more than a year now. And while many over-the-counter categories are adversely affected when consumers begin changing their shopping behaviors—becoming more frugal, shopping more on promotion or gravitating in greater numbers toward national-brand equivalents—nonprescription drugs still represent a tough-times strategy to avoid the doctor’s office or to forego filling a more expensive, prescription-only treatment for consumers.

Overall, sales of OTC remedies totaled $28.4 billion across food, drug and mass markets for the 52 weeks ended April 18, according to Nielsen Group scan data, representing slight growth of 1.8% as compared with the same period last year.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s April Health Tracking poll, as economic conditions remain poor, a majority of the public continues to say that they or a member of their household have delayed or skipped health care in the past year. The most common actions taken due to health-care costs were substituting home remedies or OTC drugs for doctor visits; 42% of the 1,203 adults surveyed cited this cost-saving measure.

Overall, 1-in-4 Americans reported that someone in their household has had trouble paying medical bills over the course of the past year. In lower-income households or households without insurance coverage, these problems were even more frequent, suggesting that the strategy to increase OTC utilization as a cost-saving measure may be more prevalent. As many as 46% of those without insurance coverage had difficulty paying medical bills in the past year, and 43% of those earning less than $30,000 per year faced similar difficulties.

And it’s not only debt-challenged consumers who are looking for cost savings in the self-care aisle. Health-care payers are driving their covered customers down that aisle as well, in an effort to better control ballooning healthcare costs on their ends. According to a CVS/Caremark poll of its employer clients, 29% of plan sponsors stated an interest in promoting OTC medications in favor of a branded or generic prescription in classes where that option is available, David Joyner, CVS/Caremark EVP sales and account services, told analysts last month.

“Given this growing demand, we rolled out the ExtraCare health card program to more than 250 clients covering more than 8 million cardholders,” he said. “Savings for the plan participants have exceeded $25 million since implementation, so this is a very important part of both increasing benefits, increasing client satisfaction and also helping our clients reduce their overall costs.”

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Kroger declares quarterly dividend

BY Michael Johnsen

CINCINNATI The Kroger Co. announced that its board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of 9 cents per share to be paid on Sept. 1 to shareholders of record at of the close of business on Aug. 14.

Kroger, one of the nation’s largest retail grocery chains, employs more than 326,000 associates, who serve customers in 2,475 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states.

On Thursday, the company announced that its president and COO Don McGeorge was retiring. McGeorge has been replaced by W. Rodney McMullen.

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Walgreens to test diabetes care model

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK Walgreens continues to flesh out its revamped strategy to be the nation’s most convenient and accessible provider of pharmacy and health-and-wellness services.

 

The latest plank in that platform is its plan to test a pharmacy-driven outreach and support program for patients with diabetes.

 

Diabetic-care services and product presentations are nothing new in the nation’s chain and independent drug stores; every pharmacy leader knows that diabetes is a major, (often undiagnosed) health challenge and a “gateway” disease that usually subjects its sufferers to a slew of other related conditions involving the circulatory system, the skin and other organs. It’s also no secret that diabetics generate far more in annual drug store sales to treat these related conditions.

 

What makes Walgreens’ pilot program worthy of notice are two things.

 

 

First, with some 6,800 retail pharmacies, 350 in-store and worksite clinics and a network of specialty pharmacies across the United States, the company wields enormous potential power in the healthcare marketplace. If it expands its fledgling diabetes pilot beyond the test stage, it has thousands of “points of care” through which it could offer diabetes support programs and other disease management offerings. It’s a huge potential resource to offer diabetic patients and their employer-based or government-sponsored health plans, not to mention those patients’ overburdened, time-constrained primary care doctors.

 

 

Second, Walgreens is very deliberately positioning its diabetes care offering as a part of a much broader, integrated healthcare platform that links patients in the program to all the company’s health-and-wellness capabilities, said Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson. And it dovetails neatly with the Obama administration’s call for “more preventive care and better access,” in the words of Walgreens’ top manager.

 

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