GBI ResearchIncreasing pressure from customers, drug manufacturers and regulators to convert prescription medications to over-the-counter (OTC) non-prescription status is one of the main drivers of growth within the OTC drugs market, says business intelligence provider GBI Research.

According to the company’s latest CBR Pharma report, demand for OTC drugs is rising as patients are taking a more proactive approach to treating ailments.

Sumith Ladda, Analyst for GBI Research, says the benefits of using OTC compared with prescription drugs include easy accessibility, lower costs, convenience and customer-empowering qualities. For this reason, OTC drugs are ubiquitous and lucrative products, and allowing previously expensive prescription products into the OTC drugs market is incredibly beneficial to its growth.

Ladda comments: “To date, the OTC drugs market has primarily catered for common ailments such as coughs, colds and headaches, which are not perceived as requiring a visit to a medical practitioner. For the most part, the pharmaceutical industry is in agreement that the ‘easy’ prescription-to-OTC switches have been completed, and that the coming years will be focused on chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.”

“Indeed, pharmacists can expect to attend to rarer and more complex conditions, and as such will be a key part of the movement towards greater patient autonomy and expanded access to healthcare,” adds Ladda.

GBI Research’s report also states that the rising costs of healthcare will drive the OTC drugs market, as patients are encouraged to eschew prescription treatments for lower-priced alternatives.

Cost-conscious insurance programmes will drive this trend even further by encouraging consumers to self-treat, especially with regard to chronic conditions, by providing dramatically increased incentives for the use of newly-approved OTC drugs.

“This cultural shift towards greater self-reliance in healthcare means new competitors have identified the potential of OTC products, with many pursuing major acquisitions to gain a foothold for growth. Even food companies such as Danone and Nestle are focusing on OTC products, as they look to capitalize on growing consumer interest in personal well-being,” Ladda concludes.