It’s something many of us have done dozens, perhaps even hundreds of times before – buying over-the-counter (OTC) drugs from a pharmacy. Even though many pharmacies have been diversifying their stock, data shows that the sales of OTC medications remain as solid as ever. What can we take away from this information? There are many inferences we can make, but first, let’s analyze the data and see how sales have changed over the past years.

OTC sales approximately doubled during a period from 2008-2014. Some estimates put OTCs at around 8% of domestic sales, with a steady 4%-5% growth per year. These sales totaled billions of dollars worth of revenue. What is driving this change? The belief is that a mass switch over from prescription drugs to OTCs is part of what is fueling the trend.

More options regarding medicines to treat common ailments has individuals buying OTCs in droves, that and the fact that individuals are trying to save more money. OTC drugs are usually less expensive, and the recent understanding that OTC drugs are just as safe as prescription drugs has individuals picking OTCs as the obvious choice.

Furthermore, the purchase of OTCs is encouraged by many healthcare professionals, who feel that they are a safe and effective alternative, and their reduced cost and accessibility will help curb healthcare costs and the strain on health providers.

The ability to purchase OTC drugs, they argue, allows individuals to take a greater degree of control over their personal care choices and eases the burden on health providers having to see individuals for minor instances where an OTC would be the most effective treatment option.

In what categories is this trend most prevalent? You can see it most obviously in cold and allergy medication. Where once the prescription allergy tabs where kings of the market, they have lost ground to private label pharmacy OTCs and don’t seem poised to gain it back.

Antacid and heartburn relief medications as well have seen a shift towards OTCs. While these are some of the larger markets, there are smaller ones that have seen OTC growth, such as sleep aids, ear care, bladder control, and a few others as well.

How does this tie into the consumer mindset? It tells us what consumers are thinking about OTC drugs, and what they want out of the products they choose to purchase. Using the characteristics of OTC drugs as our guide, we can see that customers want products that are…

Accessible – This is a big deal. OTC products are much easier to obtain than prescription drugs, which require a lengthier process to obtain. Individuals are more apt to take a trip to a retail location that sells OTCs than go to the doctor, and more places are selling OTC products than there are pharmacies.

Furthermore, OTC products can be purchased from places that are open 24/7, as opposed to your doctor’s office, which has very limited hours and often lengthy waiting periods. This ability to get them anytime is especially appealing to parents, who often need to find emergency late-night relief for their children who come down with some ailment rapidly.

Affordable – It’s well known that OTC products cost less than their prescription counterpart. Especially in times of economic downturn, people search for affordable options more frequently. It’s not just about the price of the pills either; the accessibility plays right into the affordability factor. When you have to jump through fewer hoops to get something, it is also a cheaper investment of your time, and by extension, your money.

With that said, it would behoove you to want to capitalize on such an opportunity if you were running your own retail business by putting a focus on private label pharmacy OTC sales. This blog post, “5 Easy Ways to Promote Private Label OTC Sales in Your Pharmacy” provides some interesting insight on doing just that. It’s a good look at how you use customer loyalty to boost sales numbers, highlight price differences to promote OTC use, prominently display your OTC products to generate interest, educate your customers on the benefit of purchasing OTC, and using your staff to help promote the products as well.