Whether Prescribed or Over-​the-​Counter, Americans Prefer Generics

Whether they’re looking to fill a prescription or to pick up an over-​the-​counter remedy, Americans are reaching for Generics over name brand drugs. Among those who purchase prescription drugs for themselves, nearly seven in ten (69%) say they would choose generic more often, when given a choice. Three in ten (30%) go as far as saying they would “always” choose generic. While just 31% opt for a brand name script more often, Millennials are more likely than any other generation to do so (38% vs. 30% Gen Xers, 27% Baby Boomers & 22% Matures). Those with children in the household are also more likely to go the name-​brand route, compared to those without (36% vs. 28%). Americans tell a similar story for over-​the-​counter drug purchases as well. When given a choice, over six in ten purchasers (63%) say they would choose generic more often. Nearly one-​quarter (24%) will “always” reach for the generic option. Older generations are more likely than their younger counterparts to go the generic route (68% both Matures & Baby Boomers vs. 62% Gen Xers & 58% Millennials). These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,255 U.S. adults surveyed online between August 12 and 17, 2015. Do it for the kids? When it comes to purchasing medications for their kids, regardless of whether they’re prescription or OTC, parents continue to reach for generics. For prescription purchases, over six in ten (61%) fill the scripts with a generic compared to the 34% who stick with the brand names. While generics remain the favorite, the disparity between them and brand names does lessen when buying OTC medications for children. Just over half (52%) purchase generic OTC drugs for their children, while 42% reach for the brand name option. Interestingly, for both prescription and OTC purchases, those in urban settings are nearly twice as likely to pick up a brand name drug for a child, compared to those in suburban or rural settings. 

  • Purchases brand name prescription drugs for a child: 56% Urban vs. 26% Suburban & 24% Rural.
  • Purchases brand name over-​the-​counter drugs for a child: 63% Urban vs. 32% Suburban & 37% Rural.

When it comes down to the money Looking at how much they’re actually willing to pay for their own generic prescriptions, nearly half of purchasers (48%) say they would only pay $10 or less for a 30-​day supply. Meanwhile, 31% would pay between $10.01 and $25.00 and 11% would pay between $25.01 and $50. Just 4% would be willing to shell out more than $50 for a generic-​filled prescription for themselves. However, this number nearly triples when considering purchasing for a child. Eleven percent of those buying generic drugs for a child say they would pay over $50. Interestingly, Millennials and those in households with children are all more likely to say they would pay over ten dollars out-​of-​pocket for generic prescription drugs. 

  • 56% of Millennials vs. 51% Gen Xers, 37% Baby Boomers & 40% Matures
  • 54% of adults with children in their households vs. 42% of adults without

Where to get the goods The vast majority of Americans purchase prescription and OTC medications (93% & 96%, respectively) and there are plenty of purchase channel options, but Americans have their favorites. For prescription drugs, chain drug stores (think Walgreens or CVS) are the favorite, with half (50%) doing their Rx shopping at these locations. Other top marketplaces for scripts include discount stores (like Walmart or Target) (23%), a supermarket (18%), or online/​by mail order (16%). Fewer utilize a local pharmacy (12%) or the pharmacy at a hospital or medical center (9%).

  • Compared to their younger counterparts, Older generations are more likely to purchase prescription drugs (98% Matures & 95% Baby Boomers vs. 90% Gen Xers & 91% Millennials), and they’re also, perhaps surprisingly, more likely to turn to online channels to do so (27% & 24% vs. 10% & 7%).
  • Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to purchase from chain drug stores (58% vs. 46%), discount stores (30% vs. 20%), and local pharmacies (17% vs. 10%). On the other hand, those without kids in the house are more likely to purchase online (19% vs. 10%).

Turning to OTC drugs, two top contenders lead the field: discount stores are the top destination for these purchases, with 57% of Americans using them for OTC purchases; chain drug stores come in a close second with 51%. A third of adults visit supermarkets (32%), while one in ten hit local pharmacies (10%) and fewer utilize online/​mail order (5%) or the pharmacy at a hospital or medical center (3%) for their OTC needs. 

  • Millennials are more likely than all other generations to get the goods at chain drug stores (61% vs. 50% Gen Xers, 45% Baby Boomers, & 46% Matures).

AudienceSCAN has the scoop on the prescription-​filling audience. 46% of Prescription Fillers have dogs at home and 34% have cats, so some meds could be for the furry friends. And 17.6% plan to pay for veterinarian services for pets in the next year. 14% think TV is the best source for health/​medical information, and 32% took action after viewing a spot on TV (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) in the past month. 51.6% of Prescription Fillers want to buy things that help them feel "comfortable," so focus on any comfort factors in your advertising campaigns. AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.

Courtney Huckabay
Courtney is the Editor for SalesFuel Today. She analyzes secondary customer research and our primary AudienceSCAN research. Courtney is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University.