HEALTH

SymphonyIRI: Consumers turn to OTCs to curb healthcare costs

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Spurred by a difficult economy, over-the-counter medications increasingly are playing a dual role for consumers looking to minimize healthcare expenditures, the SymphonyIRI Group found in a new research paper titled “Over-the-Counter Medications: State of the Industry 2010” that was released last week.

 

“The down economy has reinforced and escalated consumers’ quest for ‘the good life,’” stated Susan Sakach, SVP healthcare solutions at SymphonyIRI. “Consumers have long worked to establish and maintain wellness in order to have a high quality of life; however, today they are motivated by something else, too. Consumers are looking to stay well in order to alleviate burdensome medical expenses.”

 

 

This has prompted greater interest in self-care — more than one-third of consumers today are visiting the doctor less frequently and self-treating to save on medical expenses. Nearly all of these consumers (88%) will continue to do so even as the economy improves, SymphonyIRI found. 

 

 

This has generated a greater consumer interest in overall nutrition, for example, with 74% of consumers indicating they are trying to eat better these days. While many consumers are using nutrition to achieve a specific goal, such as losing weight or controlling a special condition, 81% of consumers indicated that they are eating better because they want to stay healthy and avoid unnecessary medical expenses.

 

 

Along with the greatest interest in overall nutrition comes an increasing awareness around supplementing a diet with vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. Two-thirds of consumers regularly use vitamins, while one-quarter and one-third of consumers take herbal supplements and omega-3s, respectively, SymphonyIRI found.

 

 

Prevention similarly is a common theme among OTC consumers. For instance, 16% of consumers indicated they take allergy medication to prevent allergies even though proactively taking allergy medication simply treats symptoms but doesn’t actually prevent an allergy. This disconnect is one example of an opportunity for allergy medication manufacturers to educate consumers about true prevention strategies, SymphonyIRI suggested.

 

 

“For many consumers, OTC medications are a tool that allows them to maintain their hectic schedules despite having a chronic condition, such as allergies, or acute ailments, such as achy muscles,” Sakach said. “OTC marketers are wise to consider this perspective when developing their communication strategy. Education provides fo another level of communication with consumers.”

 

 

SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar called “Over-the-Counter Medications: State of the Industry 2010,” on Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. EST. Click here to register.

 

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Seniors likely won’t sway from benefit plan

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT A plan by health insurer Humana and Walmart to offer a cheap prescription drug plan to seniors who shop at the mass merchandiser may be a little off the mark, if results of the survey of Medicare beneficiaries is to be believed.

(THE NEWS: Many seniors are satisfied with Medicare Rx benefit, survey shows. For the full story, click here)

The survey indicated that an overwhelming majority of beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage and found prices affordable.

Price isn’t the only thing that customers take into consideration, even when economic times are difficult. According to a customer service satisfaction survey by J.D. Powers and Associates, consumers gave significantly higher marks to independent pharmacies than they did to chains — particularly in areas such as the shopping experience and staff — while Walmart actually got a score below the average for mass merchandisers.

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CVS Caremark announces settlement of PSE sales suit

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. Under a settlement reached with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Central District of California and the District of Nevada, CVS Caremark has agreed to pay $75 million in civil penalties and $2.6 million in profit forfeitures to settle allegations that in 2007 and 2008, certain CVS/pharmacy stores in California and Nevada engaged in unlawful sales of pseudoephedrine.

CVS also must maintain certain compliance measures to monitor and prevent excessive sales of the ingredient found in popular over-the-counter cold-cough medicines. In addition, the settlement acknowledged that a distribution center in California failed to monitor and report excessive PSE sales by CVS/pharmacy stores; it related only to the retail pharmacy business.

“We are announcing today that we have resolved this issue, which unfortunately resulted from a breakdown in CVS/pharmacy’s normally high management and oversight standards,” stated Tom Ryan, chairman and CEO of CVS Caremark. “While this lapse occurred in 2007 and 2008, and has been addressed, it was an unacceptable breach of the company’s policies and was totally inconsistent with our values. CVS/pharmacy is unwavering in its support of the measures taken by the federal government and the states to prevent drug abuse. To make certain this kind of lapse never takes place again,” Ryan continued, “we have strengthened our internal controls and compliance measures, and made substantial investments to improve our handling and monitoring of PSE by implementing enhanced technology and making other improvements in our stores and distribution centers.”

The settlement does not impact any other business conducted by CVS or any of its affiliated companies. In addition, the settlement amount has been fully reserved, as previously disclosed, and should have no further effect on the company’s financial results, the company stated.

The settlement related to excessive sales of PSE at certain CVS/pharmacy locations that resulted from the flawed implementation of an electronic monitoring system to record individual PSE sales. As implemented in California, Nevada and certain other states, the system did not prevent multiple sales of PSE that totaled more than the federal daily legal limit, which made certain CVS/pharmacy stores vulnerable to criminals who intended to purchase large amounts of PSE. The excessive sales occurred primarily in California and Nevada. The settlement includes not only federal jurisdictions in California and Nevada, but also federal jurisdictions in 23 other states where the system was not implemented properly, CVS stated.

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