The recession around the world is having a negative impact on health citizens’ purchases of over-the-counter drugs.

The economy is changing the way they will use non-prescription drugs, as well as the kind of drugs they will use. To the first point, OTC consumption will decline for some; for people who continue to demand OTC meds, they will increasingly seek lower-priced products.

Globally, 46% of the world’s citizens believe that economic decline will have an impact on their demand for over-the-counter drugs. The chart illustrates that, from China (CN) down to Belgium and the US, the world’s citizens feel negatively impacted by economic decline — and this will negatively impact their demand for over-the-counter drugs.

You can sift through many countries’ ‘scores’ on OTC demand. For example, nearly 8 in 10 respondents from China said their consumption of non-prescription meds would be impacted by the economy; in the Philippines, about 75% of citizens feel their demand for OTCs would be impacted due to the economy. At the bottom end of this negative impact are the Scandinavian citizens of Norway, Finland, and Sweden, along with Denmark, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Underneath this macro impact, though, citizens in different parts of the world will behave differently vis-à-vis OTCs. For example, in the US, the response will be roughly equally split between cutting back on non-prescription meds and seeking cheaper alternatives (32% and 29%, respectively).

In contrast, in Europe, adopting traditional and natural remedies will beat shopping on the basis of price.
Eyeballing the chart, you will notice the orange bars — adoption of alternative and natural remedies — are far larger in other parts of the world compared to North America.

Nielsen
‘s Global Online Consumer Survey was conducted in March 2009 among over 25,000 Internet users in 50 markets from Europe, Asia Pacific, North and Latin America and the Middle East.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
Americans are clearly more price-driven than the world’s other health citizens. In the U.S., there is much greater choice in over-the-counter products, which are also “open-shelved.” Except for a very few non-prescriptions meds, Americans can walk in to the drugstore on the corner (inevitably a chain, grocer or superstore) and choose from scores headache meds (with variations from migraine to sinus), cold meds, and pain meds.

That choice is increasingly driven by price, with Nielsen finding 30% of American consumers saying that price is such an important factor in product choice they will buy cheaper products. Generics and stores’ private label brands will replace branded products in this scenario.

As Americans’ out-of-pocket costs continue to increase for ‘prescribed’ health care goods and services, from surgical procedures to specialty drugs, health citizens will shop around. The greater transparency and access, the better decisions the health consumer will be able to make. That is, (1) if alternatives exist, (2) if the substitutes are efficacious and safe, and (3) if the consumer’s household dollar will be able to stretch far enough to accommodate the health spending. Here as in all personal spending, value will be in the eye of the beholder.

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