HEALTH

Sales of OTC remedies increase at the dollar store channel

BY Michael Johnsen

The dollar store channel is growing in prominence when it comes to OTC remedies, noted Bob Sanders, EVP at IRI, at the Consumer Healthcare Products Association Annual Executive Conference last March. Overall, 99.2% of all households purchased an OTC remedy in the past year, generating 2.9 billion trips, which was on par with the year prior. The average consumer spent $347 on OTC medicines last year, up 2%.

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The dollar channel contributed the greatest gain in channel contribution to OTC sales — 2% of all OTCs were sold in a dollar store last year, up 0.4%. And dollar stores accounted for 5% of all OTC trips, up 0.2%. OTC sales within the dollar channel have increased due to gains in both penetration and buying rate, Sanders said. As many as 28.3% of U.S. households bought their OTCs in a dollar store last year, spending as much as $23.99 per purchase.

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Ripe prospects for OTC switch consideration

BY Michael Johnsen

If you were impressed by the recent switches of Nasacort Allergy 24HR, Nexium 24HR or Flonase — well-executed and model switches — well, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Because it won’t be long now before the blockbuster of blockbusters — Pfizer’s statin Lipitor — could make its way down the switch aisle. Pfizer wrapped up consumer usage studies of its cholesterol-lowering drug in December and expects to reveal the results by the end of June.

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So why now? Why would the Food and Drug Administration be willing to entertain another statin switch when in the past decade the agency had denied so many other attempts?

It’s a matter of perspective, suggested Joe Papa, president and CEO of the store-brand manufacturer Perrigo and avid switch follower. The FDA and the medical community have changed their views on how to treat high cholesterol — you don’t treat the numbers; you treat the risk factors. “It’s that move to risk factors that I think is the important question,” he said.

But Lipitor isn’t the only blockbuster switch prospect. If approved as an OTC, Lipitor will be one of approximately seven switches coming to FDA decision-makers before the end of 2016, suggested Steve Francesco, president of Francesco International and chairman of the ExL Pharma’s Rx-to-OTC Switch Summit. According to Francesco, there are at least 35 switch projects in various stages right now.

Now that the nasal corticosteroids Nasacort Allergy 24HR, and more recently Flonase, are on the market, it stands to reason Bayer’s Nasonex and Meda Pharmaceutical’s Astepro might be up for switch consideration, Papa suggested. And the recent Bayer switch of Oxytrol opens the door to other overactive bladder remedies like Pifzer’s Detrol and Detrol LA or Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ Ditropan or Ditropan XL. The overactive bladder market is a $3.3 billion opportunity, Papa suggested.

Other areas ripe for OTC switch applicants include topical analgesics and ophthalmic products, Papa said. Longer term, erectile dysfunction may be up for consideration in 2017, when patents protecting Cialis expire. Chattem acquired the marketing rights to an OTC Cialis last year.

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Emphasizing the value of OTC medicines

BY Michael Johnsen

Is this the year that restrictions on the use of over-the-counter medicines in conjunction with a flexible savings account are lifted? If you consider the value proposition — the $102 billion saved each year by the use of OTC medicines — and that health care is moving toward a more value-based, outcomes-driven system, it would certainly seem so.

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“The FSA issue continues to be one of our top priorities if not our top priority from a legislative perspective,” Scott Melville, president and CEO for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, told Drug Store News. “Ever since that law was enacted in 2011, [and] the ability for consumers to use their FSAs or HSAs to purchase OTC medicines was taken away, we pursued a strategy up on Capitol Hill to change that and to correct that wrong. Each year since then, we’ve had bipartisan and bicameral legislation introduced to reverse that provision,” he said. “When I speak to legislators on the Hill, uniformly they say, ‘That makes no sense.’ … We’re hopeful that with two years left in the president’s administration and a Congress that is likely to start moving legislation and sending it to him, that this will be at the top of the list for the kind of common sense reforms that President Obama has said that he’d be willing to consider.”

And “this makes absolutely no sense” is exactly what Sen. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., said to fellow senators in introducing The Family Health Care Flexibility Act in March. “Instead of a top-down, one-size-fits-all healthcare system, we need solutions that provide patients with greater value, more choices and lower cost.”

“Families [today] have to waste more time and money jumping through Washington-mandated hoops just to access these accounts,” added Sen. John Barrasso, R-Minn. “We should be making it easier for families to pay for routine medical expenses, not harder.”

Emphasizing the value of OTC medicines is important because it represents the first line of healthcare defense for so many Americans. According to a Pfizer white paper released last year, as many as 81% of adults use OTC medicines as a first response to minor ailments. And one U.S. study analyzing the seven most common acute and chronic self-treatable conditions found that 92% of those who use OTC medicines in a given year would seek treatment elsewhere if OTCs were not available, which would result in a surge of office visits that would require 56,000 additional full-time healthcare practitioners to handle.

To that end, physicians recognize the value of OTC medicines, too. In a 2013 survey of U.S. primary care physicians, 75% would recommend an OTC product prior to prescribing a medicine to relieve their patients’ symptoms for ailments, such as allergies, pain, cough and cold, and acid reflux/upset stomach.

“[OTCs are] poised to play an even greater role in our nation’s evolving healthcare system as it continues to move toward a more value-based system, where incentives are changing with consumers being required to absorb more cost of their health care,” Melville said. “For every dollar a consumer spends on an OTC medicine, it saves the healthcare system $6 to $7 for a total of about $102 billion each year by avoiding unnecessary doctor appointments or by using less-expensive OTC medicines when it’s appropriate.”

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