OTCs in Action Episode 20: Goodbye to a pioneering OTC


It’s with sadness we observe the discontinuation of Oxytrol for Women overactive bladder treatment, which Bayer acquired through the purchase of MSD’s consumer health brands last year. While it’s true that the oxybutynin transdermal patch never generated the level of sales MSD hoped for, it will be remembered as an important Rx-to-OTC switch because it created a new OTC category for millions of women suffering from OAB.

In late 2012, I learned about the pervasiveness of the condition when I covered the FDA’s Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee hearing on the Rx-to-OTC switch of oxybutynin:

Oxytrol for Women: Benefits of OTC status
According to MSD, OAB is an important public health issue with an estimated 20mn women in the US suffering from symptoms, which include urinary urgency, and is usually associated with urinary frequency and waking at night to urinate. The median age of OAB sufferers is 52 and many women incorrectly assume it is an untreatable aspect of ageing. Anthony Visco MD, president of the American Urogynecologic Society, said it is a myth that OAB is a normal part of ageing and that the potential benefits of OTC Oxytrol for Women outweigh the risks.

Elizabeth LaGro, Director of Communications for the Simon Foundation for Continence, explained that the majority of women suffering from OAB wait seven years to report the problem. In the meantime, it has a “tremendous effect on their lives”. Normal activities stop, she said, when women are afraid they will not be able to get to a bathroom. They suffer isolation, depression, anxiety and embarrassment. Younger women suffer strained marriages and many families are unable to go on outings. “OTC treatment of OAB will help, maybe for the first time, women manage their conditions, rather than coping with it,” she concluded.


The OTC industry prides itself on meeting consumer needs. Let’s put OTCs in Action to take the next step in this category and develop a lasting OTC treatment for women and men suffering from bladder control problems.

For more information about Nicholas Hall & Co’s OTC INSIGHT NORTH AMERICA, click on the link below:



OTCs in Action Episode 19: Rx-to-OTC switch to reduce Taiwan healthcare costs


The good news is that life expectancy in Taiwan has risen significantly to almost age 80, a trend that has accelerated since National Health Insurance was introduced in 1995, giving the country the rank of 38th in the world for life expectancy. However, the population of just over 23mn people has the second highest rate of people visiting doctors in the world. The cost of this level of care is quite high.

Switching drugs from Rx to OTC is one way the Taiwanese government plans to reduce costs and it is evaluating the switch of several Rx ingredients to OTC later this year. These medicines include non-sedating antihistamines, PPI antacids, low-dose aspirin for systemic cardiovascular indications and vaginal antifungals, among others.

Taiwanese officials have reported that, although consumers have high awareness of self-care, they lack knowledge of using OTCs, with only 34% saying they would purchase OTCs when they have a minor ailment. In addition to the very high rate of medical professional consultations, Taiwan’s restrictive advertising regulations for brand name products likely contribute to the problem.

On a more positive note, these Rx-to-OTC switches, in conjunction with an increasing number of consumer-oriented retail pharmacy chains, should encourage consumers to self-medicate when appropriate. Additionally, a medicine cost control programme, which caps health insurance coverage, is being tested by the health ministry. The prognosis for cost reduction with treatment by OTCs in Action is therefore very positive!

For more information about the OTC market in Taiwan and other Asian countries, please click on the link to access Nicholas Hall & Company’s OTC INSIGHT Asia-Pacific. 

OTCs in Action Episode 10: “Modern” contraception


This week, OTCs in Action are impacting the sexual health market with New Zealand’s approval of LifeStyles Dual Protect (Ansell for Starpharma) antiviral condom to help prevent pregnancy, HIV and other STD transmission; and EMA regulators’ recommendation for the European Commission to switch HRA Pharma’s ellaOne (ulipristal acetate) emergency hormonal contraceptive from Rx to OTC. ellaOne can prevent unintended pregnancy if taken within 120 hours (5 days) of intercourse; as opposed to current products, which are effective for only 72 hours.

In contrast, OTCs are not in action where they may be most needed…

About 225mn women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern contraceptives, according to a report published this week by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund. The study calculates it would cost on average US$25 per woman aged 15–49 to provide reproductive health services (including newborn care) to all women in developing regions each year.

Last month, Indian sterilisation camps came to the world’s attention when 13 women died after undergoing a sterilisation procedure for which they were compensated about US$10. The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time reported that 4.5mn Indian women underwent sterilisation in the year that ended March 2013. In the same period, just 120,000 men were sterilised.

In the future, multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) will be the OTCs in Action to provide women with pregnancy and STD protection simultaneously in formats such as gels, films and devices. Dr Beth Young Holt, co-ordinator of The Initiative for MPTs, wrote in The Guardian this month: “Many of the newest MPTs in development are female-initiated and can be used discretely. Integrative MPT products can deliver an end run around stigma (associated with condom use in many cultures) that can be a barrier to HIV prevention.”

Lifestyle OTCs: Trends, Developments, Opportunities and Strategies was published by Nicholas Hall & Company this week. This report looks at the current market situation, taking in regulatory developments, marketers & brand activity, launches and A+P campaigns, illuminating where growth opportunities are for the future.