Q1 2017: Early analysis of the global OTC performance


Nicholas Hall’s global OTC database, DB6, has just published its latest figures relating to the Q1 2017 performance of the OTC market, and below are some standout trends based on early analysis of the data. Over the coming weeks, our OTC INSIGHT research teams will be compiling the latest trend info at a regional and Top 20 country level, and we’ll alert you as soon as this analysis has been uploaded to the OTC DASHBOARD website.

1. Russia returns to higher growth (+18.2% MAT Q1 2017 vs +11.3% full-year 2016)

A key factor in the slightly improved performance of the global OTC market in the 12 months to end-March 2017 (+4.5%) vs full-year 2016 (+4.3%) was higher growth in Russia. While a modest upturn in the world’s No.1 OTC market, USA, was offset by decelerating growth for both No.2 market China and No.3 market Japan, it was the European countries – largely No.5 Russia, but also No.4 Germany – that accounted for the improved performance of the global OTC market in Q1 2017.

2. CCA growth at the heart of Europe’s revived fortunes in Q1 2017

Global CCA sales were up 4.7% in 2016, thanks to a strong end to the year, and this trend continued into the first quarter of 2017, with growth accelerating to 6.3% in the MAT Q1 2017 period. Europe was largely behind this upsurge, with CCA growth in Western Europe showing a marked improvement (+3.8%), while Central & Eastern Europe was the biggest source of dynamism (+17.8%), led by Russia and Poland. This trend extended to the rest of the northern hemisphere, with North America also reporting higher CCA growth (+4.4%) in the MAT Q1 2017 period, with Canada especially vibrant (+6.9%).

3. Global Top 5 stays the same, but J&J may overtake Sanofi by mid-year

While the Top 5 global OTC marketers – GSK, Bayer, Sanofi, J&J and Pfizer – remain fixed in position and adrift from the rest of the competition, the battle for the No.3 spot between Sanofi (+3.8%) and J&J (+4.1%) continues to intensify. On current trends, it looks as though J&J may overtake Sanofi by the end of Q2 2017, and we will confirm the outcome of this battle later in the year.

In the meantime, please check your weekly briefings and OTC DASHBOARD‘s Charts & Graphs archive for more early analysis of the Q1 2017 results over the coming weeks.


Nielsen-CHPA Survey on OTC Allergy Trends


Coughing, sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes are just some of the symptoms of seasonal or chronic allergies, one of the most common ailments impacting the lives of Americans today, according to a new white paper on Rx-to-OTC allergy switches, produced by Nielsen and the US OTC industry association, Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA).

In 2015, 27.8% of Americans suffered from allergies, which translates to approximately 69 million adults, and 89 million people overall. Since 2009, a number of ingredients, including antihistamines and intranasal steroids that were only available Rx, have now switched to OTC, giving consumers more options to treat their allergies.

While there is abundant data to show that allergy OTC sales have grown significantly owing to the increasing number of brands available, there haven’t been many studies conducted to understand how these Rx-to- OTC switches have benefitted allergy sufferers.

Nielsen’s latest report assesses the consumer benefits of allergy Rx-OTC switches to help gain an understanding of allergy-suffering consumers and how having access to more oral and nasal OTC medications has contributed to their financial and personal wellbeing.

Allergy photo

The survey is made up of data based around allergy patient visits, the number of prescriptions written by month, the costs for each, and corresponding insurance-related costs. Nielsen also provided data on allergy sufferer penetration, their buying behaviour, and how each consumer treats their ailment. 
A survey was also fielded to 2,000 adult allergy sufferers to better understand their treatment routine and overall satisfaction with their medication options.

The report found that more and more Americans are suffering from allergies. Over the time period analysed, the number of individuals who stated that they suffer from allergies has increased. There are approximately 9.7mn more allergy sufferers today than there were
 in 2010.

There has also been a clear shift to OTCs. 
The number of allergy sufferers taking OTCs has increased, while 
at the same time the number of sufferers taking prescription medications has declined. Just as importantly, the report also found that allergy sufferers who take OTCs are highly satisfied with the medication options available to them.

The report is available to download here.

Editor’s Introduction to Cough, Cold & Allergy

Sneak peek at some highlights from Global OTC Cough, Cold & Allergy

With so much going on in the US allergy remedies category ­– from Allegra’s swift dash up the rankings to the switch of intranasal corticosteroid Nasacort, from new A+P campaigns to allergy extensions of blockbuster cough & cold brands Mucinex and Vicks – it is small wonder that it was the source of double-digit growth (+11%) in 2014. Not to mention 2015 developments like the February debut of Flonase and the planned launch of Rhinocort. Yet this was just one of a handful of strong performances around the globe in the past year, with the global CCA market responding positively to a spike in flu infections across several regions, switch activity, format innovation and other new launches.

A handful of highlights from around the globe include:

  • In Brazil the move to Rx status of vasoconstrictor-based nasal decongestants led to a significant downturn, but innovative launches subsequently revived topical decongestants sales
  • China’s cough and sore throat remedies benefited from A+P targeting smokers, both for treatment of respiratory conditions caused by smoking and for freshening breath
  • In France dereimbursement is gradually transforming CCA into a pure OTC market, with increasing numbers of semi-ethicals losing reimbursement and becoming pure OTCs – and so able to be advertised
  • CCA is Russia’s largest OTC category by a considerable margin, with over $400mn separating it from VMS (second largest category); CCA options are prominent on a proposed mass market list
  • In Turkey marketers are increasingly launching products classified as food supplements (particularly throat lozenges) and medical devices (notably saline topical decongestants) as these are less tightly controlled than registered medicines

For a comprehensive view of the Global OTC Cough, Cold & Allergy market, including in-depth coverage of the 15 leading CCA markets, check out our just-published report. For more information, download the brochure or contact Nino Hunter.

OTCs in Action Episode 27: Regulation drives innovation


This week, OTCs are in Action in Indonesia. Last year, Indonesian regulators disallowed cough remedies containing only dextromethorphan as an active ingredient. Although this drug is considered safe and effective, it is widely abused because of its hallucinogenic and dissociative side-effects when taken in huge quantities, and tends to appeal to teenagers.

One of the products that was withdrawn is Komix DT, part of category-leading cough remedy Komix (Bintang Toedjoe / Kalbe). To bolster the brand after this withdrawal, the marketer launched Komix Herbal in 2014. It comes in the same packaging as the withdrawn version, and contains lagundi, liquorice and peppermint oil, among other ingredients. This year, Komix Luo Han Kuo+ was launched. The powders contain extract of luo han kuo fruit, honey and pelargonium, and are designed to be dissolved in water to create a warm drink that relieves symptoms of cough and associated heartburn.

Dextromethorphan is sold as an OTC in the US, but eight states have banned its sale to minors under 18 to discourage abuse by teens. It’s not very surprising that OTC INSIGHT North America’s US market report to be published later this month charts the meteoric rise of Zarbee’s honey-based natural cough medicine, launched about two years ago and now claiming fourth place in the category.

The trend towards naturals has been partly driven by regulation, but also by parents concerned about the safety of OTC medicines they give to their children, causing an inevitable rise in sales of homeopathic and herbal remedies across the globe that shows little sign of abating.

OTCs in Action 17: Outwitting meth manufacturers


A few weeks ago, I was not allowed to purchase my tried-and-true pseudoephedrine cold & sinus medication because I did not have my new driver’s licence with me for identification. Surprised by the firm “no” given to the just-expired card still in my wallet, I meekly went back to the OTC shelves and chose an alternative.

PSE products were restricted to behind the pharmacy counter with ID required for purchase several years ago to reduce the OTC’s conversion into methamphetamine for illicit drug use. A couple of states have gone so far as to make PSE sales by prescription only. But two OTC manufacturers, Westport Pharmaceuticals and Acura Pharmaceuticals, are using science to make PSE safer. Their PSE OTCs, Zephrex-D and Nexafed, respectively, feature formulations that hamper the conversion of PSE into methamphetamine. Last week, Acura launched Nexafed Sinus Pressure + Pain (pseudoephedrine and acetaminophen), to give consumers the first combination remedy using this technology. This is important because, in some areas, meth-resistant are the only pseudoephedrine products permitted to be sold. “When Nexafed replaces traditional, non-meth-resistant PSE products in pharmacies, patients get the same relief they expect, but meth cooks have to look elsewhere for the older products they prefer,” Acura president Bob Jones said. “This has led to a significant reduction in local meth labs as documented by state and county officials in 2014.”

An article in Pharmacy Times this month supports Jones’ claim:

“After Nexafed became the only form of PSE available in the local pharmacies of 2 counties in Tennessee, law enforcement officials reported an 88% reduction in meth production labs in Campbell County and 90% fewer labs in Scott County. Similar findings were reported in West Virginia, where a 40% reduction in meth lab seizures was reported after a substantial number of retailers replaced conventional PSE product formulations with tamper-resistant products such as Nexafed.”

That said, the DEA’s National Drug Threat Assessment Summary 2013 indicates that methamphetamine abuse is stable – “amphetamine-related treatment admissions arw slowly but steadily declining. The number of new methamphetamine abusers (“past year initiates”) fluctuated but remained statistically similar from 2008 to 2011. The number of current users increased from 2010 to 2011, but also remained statistically similar and did not exceed the number reported in 2009.”

The disparity between local meth lab declines and stable usage rates is likely owing to increasing production in Mexico — the primary foreign source for the US market — and ongoing small-scale domestic production, according to the DEA. Methamphetamine prices decreased more than 70% between the third quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2012; during that time, methamphetamine purity increased almost 130%.

Obviously a problem of this magnitude will not be solved by a few OTC reformulations … but fewer meth labs as a result of behind-the-counter distribution and meth-resistant products is a start.

To see the original DEA report and the Pharmacy Times article, click on the links below:



OTCs in Action Episode 14: OTC Transformers


Two innovators featured in Medical Marketing & Media’s Top 40 Healthcare Transformers are shifting the shape of OTC.

Roche’s Michael Coffey, Consumer experience team lead, is changing the way diabetics feel about treatment of their condition. Roche’s Accu-Chek test kits are OTCs in Action to change the blood glucose testing experience by rewarding diabetics with pleasant surprises, such as aroma candles or popcorn, with their monthly supplies.

“The challenge is understanding where our ability to walk alongside the customer truly is and to break out of the commoditised world we live in,” he says. Along those lines, Coffey believes that it’s important to look beyond healthcare to delight consumers; he finds inspiration in the world of discovery retail (wine clubs, Birchbox beauty products).

“Can we get them excited about testing? Can we get them to share it socially?” he asks. “If we can make that happen, it would open up the door for them to talk about diabetes as part of their lifestyle in a positive way. We approach them as people, not patients.” (MM&M, January 1, 2015)

Gary Kay, President and Co-founder of Cognitive Research Corp, has developed technology that can evaluate whether consumers taking OTCs should be in action – on the road, that is. CRC’s simulation programme evaluates a drug’s effect on driving.

“It is critically important that prescribers and consumers recognise that drugs, even OTC drugs, can impair their ability to drive, whether or not they feel drowsy,” Kay says.

Sometimes the interactions are unexpected. The company recently asked test subjects to drink two glasses of wine a day after they took a standard dose of an OTC cold medication. “While that’s a legal amount of alcohol, we found they were really impaired,” Kay reports. Of course, social pressures have sparked change, too. “It took us a long time to become aware of the risks of alcohol and driving, and now we are realising the effects of medications on driving safety. Consumers are demanding that these studies be conducted.”

To read the full MM&M article: