Preparing for a Drug Shift from Rx to OTC

If you  work with pharmaceutical firms that sell prescription drugs which will soon be sold over the counter (OTC), the news may not be all bad. A Nielsen Healthscape Consumer report on consumer behavior during Zyrtec's transition from prescription to OTC drug status revealed three important trends:

  • Consumers who take a specific medication under prescription may not buy the medication when it is available as an OTC drug and in Zyrtec's case, the percentage of existing users who stayed with the drug after conversion was lower than expected.
  • Consumers who take other OTC drugs may switch to a drug that comes out of the prescription market because they perceive it as being more powerful or effective.
  • Some consumers who believe a prescription drug is relieving their symptoms will continue to purchase the drug as an OTC product despite higher costs. A significant percentage of  Zyrtec users did not change to a less expensive alternative.

The study indicates that consumer behavior is not easy to predict, however, specific marketing campaigns to address major consumer concerns could help a drug maintain or increase market share. The Healthscape Consumer report indicates that several prescription drugs will shift to OTC status in the next few years so now may be a good time to review drug status with your pharmaceutical clients.

[Source: Consumer Behavior, Managed Care and RX/​OTC Switch, Nielsen Whitepaper, November 2008] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.