CHPA study: OTCs save healthcare system $146B yearly

A new study from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association is highlighting big savings that over-the-counter products bring to the healthcare system. The “Value of OTC Medicines to the U.S. Healthcare System” report found that on average, each dollar spent on OTC products saved the healthcare system $7.20 — a nearly $146 billion savings when added up.

The study, done in partnership with IRI, examined survey results from more than 5,000 consumers. It found that the savings come from both drug cost savings, which totaled $52 billion, and cost savings from avoiding unnecessary clinical visits, which totaled $95 billion. The study estimates that roughly 90% of consumers who buy an OTC product for a condition would seek medical treatment if the OTC product hadn’t been available.

“It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if OTC medicines weren’t available,” said Scott Melville, president and CEO of CHPA. “For this study, researchers actually mapped out a scenario where nonprescription options weren’t available to determine the value of OTCs to our healthcare system. Not surprisingly, in that scenario, they found most consumers would go to a doctor, get a prescription, or delay treatment and suffer the consequences, like more frequent absences from work, for example. There are direct and indirect costs associated with each of these scenarios. And they are enormous.”

Categories analyzed in the study included allergy, analgesics, antifungals, cough-cold/flu, lower GI, medicated skin, upper GI, sleep, and smoking cessation product. Three of those categories — medicated skin, lower GI and upper GI products — made up roughly 61% of the total cost savings.

“The evidence is clear that OTC medicines help ease the tremendous burden on the healthcare system by empowering consumer self-care, thereby allowing overstretched healthcare practitioners to focus on the diagnosis and treatment of patients with more serious diseases and medical conditions,” Melville said.