Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines provide consumers with safe, effective, and accessible healthcare options. While the cost savings of using OTCs are well established and known, there is a growing awareness among consumers and healthcare professionals that OTC medicines can help prevent serious illnesses and enhance quality of life.
- Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease in the United States. It has been estimated to cost our nation almost $100 billion dollars in excess medical and indirect costs from disability and lost earnings. Fortunately, safe and effective treatments exist to help smokers quit without a prescription. OTC nicotine replacement therapies help Americans quit smoking, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs. In the first year of their availability without a prescription, researchers found it lead to an increase in use of 152%. This translates to 115,000 to 300,000 successful quitters annually.
- Millions of Americans suffer from heartburn symptoms each week: one in 10 according to WebMD. The availability of heartburn medications over-the-counter to help treat these symptoms has provided tremendous benefit both to millions of individuals and the healthcare system at large. According to a 2009 report by The Nielsen Company and CHPA, OTC therapy saves patients an average total of $174 each in office visits and medication costs annually. In addition, Nielsen and CHPA attribute $757 million in annual savings to the U.S. healthcare system based on fewer office visits. Finally, consumers report 94 percent satisfaction with their OTC treatments.
- Approximately two to four million Americans suffer from Sjogren’s Syndrome, an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own moisture-producing glands. There is no cure for Sjogren’s Syndrome, but many of the disease’s symptoms can be treated with nonprescription drugs that, on average, cost sufferers $1,000 to $1,400 per year.
- 46 million Americans suffer from arthritis, including 27 million with osteoarthritis. OTC internal and external analgesics can help alleviate pain associated with mild-to-moderate arthritis.
- One out of five Americans suffer from allergies, with seasonal allergies from grass, weeds, or tree pollen among the most common. OTC oral antihistamines and nasal sprays help to alleviate the symptoms of respiratory allergies, and topical treatments such as hydrocortisone and diphenhydramine can be used to treat skin allergies.
- One of the most common problems treated with over-the-counter medicines is the condition of vaginal yeast infections (candidiasis). Previously, women who were experiencing the recognizable symptoms of a reoccurrence of candidiasis were required to visit a doctor and take time off from work to treat this common condition. Because of the availability of antifungals on a nonprescription basis, there was a 15 percent reduction in doctor visits from 1990 to 1994 with an associated cost savings of $63.5 million for medical expenses and lost time from work.