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WASHINGTON — For every dollar spent on over-the-counter medicines, the U.S. healthcare system realizes a savings of between $6 and $7, or $102 billion all told, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced Tuesday with the release of this new study, "The Value of OTC Medicine to the United States."
"This study is the first of its kind to assign a dollar value that captures how our entire healthcare system relies on OTC medicines for affordable healthcare," stated Scott Melville, CHPA president and CEO. "When you consider that every dollar spent on an OTC medicine saves our system $6 to $7 in avoided cost, it is paramount that our policy-makers do all they can to encourage consumer access to OTC medicines for self-treatable conditions."
Melville added that the study findings underscore the importance of reversing a provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act that prohibits consumers from using their flexible spending arrangements to purchase OTC medicines without first getting a prescription. At the time this provision was enacted Jan. 1, 2011, an estimated 19 million working American families purchased OTC medicines.
According to the study, an estimated 240 million people rely on OTC medicines for symptomatic relief of the seven most common self-treatable conditions. The study evaluated how consumers would treat these seven conditions if they did not have access to OTC medicines. The total value equates to the total direct savings from avoided clinical visits and diagnostic testing ($77 billion) and use of less costly OTC medicines, rather than more costly prescriptions ($25 billion).
The study also found that by keeping the American workforce healthy and at work, OTC medicines offer $23 billion in potential additional productivity benefits from avoided doctor's office visits and time not having to be away from work for medical appointments. Americans would make an additional 450 million doctor visits annually, which equates to 56,000 medical practitioners working full time, if they did not have access to OTC medicines and instead saw a physician to get a prescription.
"Over-the-counter medicines are people's first line of defense. It's their home health care; it's what they turn to in order to take care of themselves and their families," said Jane Delgado, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health. "The availability of safe and effective OTC medicines empowers patients to take a more active role in their personal healthcare management. Access to safe and affordable OTC medicines is key to accomplishing that goal."
Booz & Co. surveyed 3,200 consumers for the study, which is the first to measure the aggregate cost savings of OTC medicines as used for those seven most common self-treatable conditions in the United States, CHPA noted.
For the full study, click here.