How will Amazon’s Basic Care line impact OTC?

Amazon recently announced the launch its line of generic OTC medications named the Basic Care range. The line competes with large and established US generic brands including Giant Eagle’s TopCare, Target’s Up & Up and Walmart’s Equate.

The Basic Care line is comprised of 60 items and includes cough, cold & allergy, gastrointestinal, analgesic, hair growth and smoking control products. Technically, Amazon does not own these products, which are produced by private label manufacturer Perrigo, but it does put Amazon in a position to put the squeeze on other marketers. Amazon has taken a very simplistic approach to the branding of Basic Care but claims the products are of the same standard as established OTCs.

Amazon BC

Should OTC marketers worry?

The answer is yes and no. Amazon’s biggest competitive advantage will be on price. Basic Care offers much lower prices compared to established brands especially when buying in bulk. This will work well for consumers who like to stock up on OTC items so they have them to hand when needed. Also the convenience of being able to couple this with a dash button and Amazon Prime will be a winning combination for some.

In an interview with CNBC, retail analyst Scot Ciccarelli suggested some OTC marketers may need to become more willing to lower prices. A number of retailers such as Walgreen’ and Walmart have already had to sacrifice margins to become more of a threat to Amazon after the acquisition of Whole Foods Market.

However, Amazon will still struggle in terms of accessibility. For example when the first symptoms of a headache come on, most consumers will go to their local pharmacy or supermarket to get instant relief. Amazon will not be able to offer convenience by just selling products online.

Is this part of a bigger picture?

Amazon is yet to make its plans for the prescription drug market completely clear. However, reports suggest launching an OTC range could be a step closer to a broader healthcare business play.

Whether you want to find out more about the latest innovations, benchmark the competition or simply keep abreast of new launches, Nicholas Hall’s extensive OTC New Products Tracker is an essential competitive intelligence tool that you simply must trial. Subscribers can also benefit from a newsletter highlighting the key product innovations affecting the industry. Find out more or set up your free trial today by contacting


Voice search: How will OTC adapt?

A recent Wall Street Journal video, exploring how the advent of voice-activated online shopping is forcing consumer goods companies to adapt their marketing models, has caused a lot of discussion internally here at Nicholas Hall & Company. In this week’s blog, we provide some context on this growing trend – a phenomenon some are calling “v-commerce”, with the “v” standing for voice – and look at the implications for the consumer healthcare industry.

According to an Accenture survey conducted in late 2017, ownership of voice-activated devices, or “smart speakers”, is rising sharply in many countries, up from 7% to 21% of Americans over the past year, and up from 4% to 14% in China. Whether it’s Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, this rising tide of “digital voice assistants” is expected to achieve penetration of 30-40% in many countries by the end of 2018.

50% of all searches will be done by voice within the next 5 years” – Sébastien Szczepaniak, Head of Sales & E-Business, Nestlé

If indeed half of all search queries are performed on voice-activated technologies by 2023, then this poses some stiff challenges for marketers. For example, at present, Amazon’s Alexa algorithm:

  1. Only provides two brand options in any product category
  2. Favours brands you’ve previously purchased, entrenching your preferences

Compared to retail outlets, where several brands are often on display, and e-commerce, where the brand options are even more extensive, voice search provides a very limited choice for consumers and this in turn could have a chilling effect on the brands and marketers that rank No.3 and below in certain categories.

When I tested Amazon Alexa, at home in the UK this past weekend, I was given two options when requesting a “stomach remedy” – Amazon’s first choice was Gaviscon Double Action (RB), followed by Andrews (GSK). When asking for a specific ingredient (“paracetamol”), Alexa was less reliable, with antacid Rennie (Bayer) offered as the top choice, followed by ibuprofen-based Nurofen Express (RB).

Of course, the technology remains in its infancy, so algorithms will evolve. One saving grace for OTC is that it will remain somewhat immune, compared to other consumer goods industries, given that medicines still require pharmacist intervention in many countries and that often the need to treat is so urgent that many people won’t be able to wait for their medicine to be delivered.

However, marketers of supplements – and other lifestyle and preventive remedies that are required less urgently – will need to start factoring this trend into their business plans immediately. With Amazon now starting to launch its own supplements and consumer healthcare remedies, the competition to be one of those Top 2 picks could get even more intense in the near future for OTC marketers.

Whether you want to find out more about the latest innovations, benchmark the competition or simply keep abreast of new launches, Nicholas Hall’s extensive OTC New Products Tracker is an essential competitive intelligence tool that you simply must trial. Subscribers can also benefit from a newsletter highlighting the key product innovations affecting the industry. Find out more or set up your free trial today by contacting

World first digital pill gets FDA green light


Otsuka (in association with Proteus Digital Health) has been granted approval by the US FDA for Abilify MyCite, the world’s first digital pill, which contains a sensor that tracks when the medicine has been ingested by the patient. Though Abilify is an Rx medicine for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, its approval has far-reaching implications for both prescription drugs and consumer healthcare.

How it works: Containing a sensor the size of a grain of sand, Abilify MyCite emits an electrical signal when it comes into contact with stomach acid, and this signal is received by a patch on the patient’s rib cage. In turn, this patch communicates with a smartphone app via Bluetooth, providing data such as time of ingestion and dosage. As well as the doctor and patient, up to 4 other people (including family members) can have access to the app’s data – though, importantly, the patient has control and can revoke access.


Mitchell Mathis, Director of the Division of Psychiatry Products at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation & Research, said: “The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers.” Inevitably, during the initial phase, the digital pill will be incorporated solely into Rx medicines – to allow the FDA to monitor its impact on safety and adherence – however, at a later date, there is nothing to stop this new technology being part of innovative Rx-to-OTC switches.

Patients, doctors and insurers are increasingly coming to appreciate the ability to access objective data about the whole range of our medical consumption – from Rx drugs to OTCs and supplements. Once the price of these new sensors is reduced to a certain level of affordability, we could see a much wider rollout of the technology.

That said, a major stumbling block could be the issue of privacy. Some are concerned that patients who fail to take their medicines on a regular basis may be punished by their health insurers, while others have worries that the technology could be used as a coercive tool against certain types of patients. However, those concerns aside, the future for healthcare looks increasingly digital and the FDA is already hiring more staff in anticipation of a raft of new applications for digital pills.

Hollywog unveils smartphone-controlled pain device


As revealed by our recently published MAT Q2 2017 info, global sales of topical analgesics (+8.2%) fast outpaced systemic analgesics (+3.8%), owing to higher levels of product innovation. This trend was particularly noticeable in North America, where sales of topical analgesics were up 16.2% in the year to end-June 2017.

One specific area of dynamism has been topical pain relief devices, specifically TENS machines, with a variety of smaller marketers and established OTC players launching such products in recent years. For example, Bayer launched TENS device Aleve Direct Therapy in summer 2016.

The innovation stakes have now been raised higher with the launch of a smartphone-controlled TENS device by US marketer Hollywog. The WiTouch Pro Bluetooth TENS Therapy device is paired with the WiTouch Pro App to provide stimulation pain therapy to the lower back.


According to Chuck Thomas, CEO of Hollywog: “This launch signals an important innovation for Hollywog, where our new patented pain management solution, the WiTouch Pro, offers a drug-free digitally-enabled alternative to block pain and keep moving. People are looking for a discrete solution that is personalised for their pain and with this launch we deliver on that need.”

This trend is likely to accelerate, with marketers like Purdue Pharma already looking at how to deliver pain therapy via smartwatches too.

Futuristic “smart bandages” can repair your body


Bandage technology has gradually been revolutionised in the 100 years since Band-Aids were first introduced. Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Harvard Medical School and MIT are now ready to introduce the next century of wound care with the “smart bandage”.

The smart bandage has individual fibres that store medications which can be later implemented using a smartphone or another mobile device. The bandage is made up of electrically conductive fibres that are coated in a gel that can house medications. Antibiotics and painkillers can be used within the bandage, and possibly many other effective combinations that will enhance recovery.


Individual fibres can then be activated via voltage from a connected micro-controller no larger than a post stamp using a connected mobile device. Ali Tamayol, Assistant Professor of Mechanical & Materials Engineering at Nebraska, explained: “This is the first bandage that is capable of dose-dependent drug release, you can release multiple drugs with different release profiles.”

This is an exciting platform that can potentially be applied to many different areas of biomedical engineering and medicine. Not only could it be useful for dealing with battlefield injuries, it could also help in the treatment of chronic wounds, which are common in patients living with diabetes.

This is not the only “next gen” bandage in development. A team from Swansea University’s Institute of Life Science has created bandages laden with nano-scale sensors that can instantaneously transmit health information to medical professionals using 5G wireless data.

Voice-activated tech shows potential for diabetes care


Diabetes affects 422mn people worldwide, including 14% of the US adult population and people in low and middle-income countries such as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia. To successfully manage diabetes, people living with it need to be mindful of and track myriad things throughout their day, from blood sugar levels to counting calories. In recent years voice-activated technologies have become an important way of helping sufferers manage their disease.

In this regard, Danish pharmaceutical company, Novo Nordisk, has teamed up with Health Innovation Technology Lab (HITLAB) to launch the 2017 HITLAB World Cup of Voice-Activated Technology in Diabetes, awarding prizes totalling US$75,000.


Participating innovators have been told to focus on enhancing patient outcomes, lowering healthcare costs and making the management of patients more efficient, with the goal of improving health and quality of life for diabetes sufferers.

Amy West, Senior Director, Patient Centric Marketing & Digital Health at Novo Nordisk commented: “We are constantly striving to provide solutions that minimise the burden for people living with diabetes, and believe that digital health, and specifically voice-activated technologies can be important tools for managing diabetes.”


HITLAB has helped leading organisations create and evaluate technology-based solutions to pressing healthcare challenges for the past 25 years. Last year, 74 teams from 14 countries presented technology innovations that ranged from a tech-enabled dynamic scoliosis brace to a tool that uses 3D imaging and data analytics to better diagnose ear infections. Past winners have since raised over US$50mn in follow-on investment funding.

The submission period is currently open and will close on Wednesday 11th October. Finalists will be announced on 23rd October. They will make pitches at the HITLAB Innovators Summit, which will be held in New York City. Pitches will be judged by a panel of healthcare experts assigned by Novo Nordisk and HITLAB.

FDA permits marketing of first mobile medical app

USA’s Food & Drug Administration has permitted marketing of the first mobile medical application to help treat substance use disorders (SUD). It is planned that the reSET application, to be marketed by Pear Therapeutics, will be used with outpatient therapy to treat alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and stimulant SUDs but will not treat opioid dependence.

The reSET device was reviewed through the de novo premarket review pathway, a regulatory pathway for some low to moderate-risk devices that are novel and for which there is no legally marketed predicate device to which the device can claim substantial equivalence.

Carlos Peña, Director of the Division of Neurological & Physical Medicine Devices at the FDA’s Centre for Devices & Radiological Health commented: “This is an example of how innovative digital technologies can help provide patients access to additional tools during their treatment.” Peña continued, “More therapy tools means a greater potential to help improve outcomes, including abstinence, for patients with substance use disorder.”

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The reSET device is a mobile medical app containing a patient application and clinician dashboard. The device delivers cognitive behavioural therapy to patients to teach the user skills that aid in the treatment of SUD and are intended to increase abstinence from substance abuse and increase retention in outpatient therapy programmes.

The FDA reviewed data from a multi-site, unblinded 12-week clinical trial of 399 patients who received either standard treatment or standard treatment with the addition of a desktop-based version of reSET which could be accessed at the clinic or at home. The data showed a statistically significant increase in adherence to abstinence for the patients with alcohol, cocaine, marijuana and stimulant SUD in those who used reSET (40.3%) compared to the patients who did not (17.6%).

The reSET device is indicated as a prescription-only adjunct treatment for patients with SUD who are not currently on opioid replacement therapy, who do not abuse alcohol solely, or whose primary substance of abuse is not opioids.